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“When you’re a poet, you speak to the world, and when you’re a story writer, you get the world to speak to you.” — Grace Paley

What is it about rain that depresses a depressed person even more? If winter rain is rough, October rain is rougher. There’s probably a myriad of explanations, not the least being the falling barometer and its effects on a person’s equilibrium, the sensitive ones feel it first. They can feel it coming — the change, the imbalance, the falling of one’s heart. Almost impending doom.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I’m easily swayed by my surroundings. Picture me sitting in a little restaurant in the middle of town, my town, my morning spot in the dark wooden benches ordering my usual. Coffee. Spinach pie, (I eat strange things for breakfast), and a slice of toast. Maybe it was the day I ordered Greek Salad, coffee, and a slice of toast, I don’t remember what I ate, but I remember how I felt.

It was raining. It was cool outside. I wasn’t sitting in the window like I like to. I was huddled in a booth near the front of the restaurant. A little girl with long, brown hair walked by me, and stood by the door looking out at the rain, and out of my darkening falling spirit, I heard myself begin to sing, “Rain, rain , go away….”

She turned around to see who I was, and smiled. And sang the next line, “Come again some other day.”

And just like that we were breakfast buddies. The waitress brought my salad, and introduced me to her daughter, Anna. I brought out my pen and paper and we played hangman while I ate breakfast. Anna liked Hangman, and I let her win at first. After all, she was only about 6. But she had a good vocabulary. Obviously a smart cookie. Her mom came by to check on her, to be sure Anna wasn’t bothering her favorite customer, and I assured her it was okay. I liked her company.

After that first meeting, Anna was my breakfast Hangman companion for the rest of the year. A cold year, in many ways, a turbulent one. I had children of my own, but they were grown, or almost grown, and it wouldn’t be long before we all went our separate ways, so this little 6-year-old girl who liked to play word games was a cloud-parter. Trying to stump her with words just close enough to her learning level was the ticket to chase away the rainy blues and bring me back to my sunny self.

Funny how Hangman works. You’re trying not to hang the poor fella. But sometimes you get mighty close.

The cold wet winter turned to a long wet spring, and even Easter was miserable, weather-wise. My kids were too old for Easter baskets and egg-hunting, but they managed a family photo on the backyard bench before the cloudburst. They were moving on, and I discovered I was moving on, too. Slowly. One cup of coffee at a time, one rainy day after another. Moving to the next phase of life. And so was little Anna. Pretty soon she was too busy to accompany Mom to the restaurant. She was busy with life. Ah, life. A six-almost-seven-year-old life. Rain or no, Anna was still singing our song whenever we ran into each other.

And then I moved away and lost touch with Anna’s mom. Years and years went by. I heard Anna’s father was killed in a car accident. I wrote Anna’s mom, and she wrote back. She told me how her life had changed and then I lost touch again, and I moved twice more, and by then I had ten grandchildren of my own. Life had opened up a whole new phase for me.

Last month, I Googled Anna’s mom and wrote to her. She wrote back and enclosed a picture of Anna graduating from college. Next on the agenda for her is medical school.

Our Anna. Our almost-Dr. Anna. I laughed when I saw her again. Somehow under all that deep brown hair, she’s retained that darling little face. I don’t know if she still sings. Or plays Hangman. But then, who cares? Once we played games, in a dark restaurant in the middle of town before life changed for me, and changed for her. Our Anna didn’t know she was carrying my burden away, and I didn’t know I was finding room in my sad heart for new things. She was becoming a doctor even then, she just didn’t know it yet. But I think maybe I did. There was something comforting about breakfast and Hangman and the little chatterbox that sang about the rain. She had a healing way about her and I tried real hard that year not to let her down. I would be healed.

Let the rains come. They come with a song now.

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Doreen Frick is a 61-year-old writer who lives in Nebraska. Originally from the Philadelphia area she loves to meet people and learn their stories. Almost-Dr. Anna is just one of the best things that ever happened to her.

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