The rain made mad dashes down the windowpane. Droplets raced one another to reach the bottom. Kneeling against the back of the couch Charlotte settled into the cushions, peeking at the street through the rain. She pretended the rain was writing messages in a special language only able to be read by a four-almost-five year old.
Charlotte pressed her hands to the window and watched the condensation form around her fingers tips. She touched her nose to the glass. The moisture and coldness tickled the tip of her nose making her giggle. As she giggled her breath clouded the glass and obscured her view. Wiping the glass clear with the sleeve of her t-shirt she breathed again to see how far she could fog the glass.
“Daddy, the umbrellas are flowering again.”
Her father came and put his arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head.
“Umbrellas only flower when it rains,” she said with the authority of a four-almost-five year old. “They are mostly black in colour, which are sad looking. I like it when there are some coloured ones to look at. They are my happy umbrella flowers.”
Father and daughter knelt side by side on the couch and counted the umbrella flowers blooming in the street on their fingers. Daddy counted black umbrella flowers while Charlotte counted happy umbrella flowers.
“Can we go outside and be umbrella flowers too, Daddy?”
A loaded question with the weight of a young girl’s expectations balanced against a father’s responsibilities.
He looked at his daughter, stroking her hair with his hand. “I’m sorry darling, but Daddy has a lot of work to do. Maybe some other time.”
He kissed her on the forehead and pushed himself off the couch. Charlotte sank into the lounge cushions and went back to watching the rain. The four-almost-five year old body language matched the gloomy pattern of the weather.
Back at his desk the storm of papers, spreadsheets, bills and accounts swirled into random patterns. He tried to focus but couldn’t. Leaning back in his chair he could see into the lounge room where Charlotte still sat peering out the glass.
“Stuff it. It can wait another half an hour.” Throwing down his pen he called out. “Come on sweetheart, let’s go and be umbrella flowers.”
There was a mad scurry to find Dorothy the Dinosaur gumboots, raincoat and hat. A short delay was encountered as they scrounged for umbrellas.
Standing in the doorway to the backyard Charlotte and her father watched the rain hand in hand.
“Are you ready, darling?” With a snap of plastic an umbrella bloomed, bright red with black lady bug spots. “Here you are.”
Charlotte dashed into the rain and stopped in the middle of the backyard, a brightly coloured flower. She looked with glee at the rain dripping off the tips of the umbrella as it played a nursery rhyme rhythm.
“I am a happy umbrella flower, Daddy. Look at me.” She sploshed and splashed through the puddles in the backyard, a bright red spot of fun.
Squatting down on the garden verge Charlotte peered into the wet foliage.
“What can you see, sweetie?”
“Come look, Daddy.”
Joining his daughter at the garden’s edge he looked to where she was pointing. A common garden snail trawled the leaf.
“His eyes are up on long, long stalks and they are looking at me,” Charlotte said. “We won’t squash this one, Daddy, will we?”
“Not if you don’t want to.”
“This snail is grey and his shell is all brown and swirly and he’s moving along the leaf.”
Under the pitter-patter of the rain on a black umbrella flower and red umbrella flower with black dots, father and daughter watched the progress of the snail until it reached the tip where it turned around and headed back again.
“Let’s go, Daddy,” said Charlotte.
The umbrella flowers went on an expedition around the backyard, looking under leaves, poking sticks into puddles and counting the rain drops as they fell from the corner of the clothesline.
“I want to go inside now, Daddy,” said Charlotte.
At the back door, umbrellas were shaken out, gumboots pulled off and raincoats discarded. Charlotte rushed into her bedroom and brought out her dolls to the lounge room. From his office desk, her father heard a replayed account of their time in the garden as umbrella flowers. A broad smile emerged on his face.
While he sat at his desk poring over the storm of paperwork, a little person who was four-almost-five appeared at his side. She threw her arms around his middle and said, “I love you, Daddy,” before running back to the lounge room and her dolls.
“I love you, too,” he called out loud enough for Charlotte to hear.