Friends had warned me about age 3, the so-called age of why, the age when our daughter would want to know, “Why is the sky blue?” and other scientific stumpers. At her first utterance of such a question, I planned to race to the computer, and to Google and Wikipedia.
That, at least, was the plan, until I heard the first question. “Mommy,” she said as she looked up with her round, brown eyes. “How do you catch a rainbow?”
I imagined myself explaining how sunlight passes through rain drops, the drops breaking the light into a spectrum of color. I realized, however, that she didn’t want to know what a rainbow was; she wanted to know how to catch one, and she couldn’t. She just couldn’t. Should I tell our optimistic girl, the one who believed, “My Daddy can fix anything!” that some things were impossible?
My husband’s deep, confident voice interrupted my thoughts. “You have to run really fast. You have to run as fast as Dash.” She smiled. “I’m fast!” she said. “Yes, you are sweetie, but,” I said, trailing off.
I thought, “Why set her up for disappointment? She’ll have to learn the truth about Santa one day. Is that when we’ll also tell her the truth about rainbows?”
But I also realized, we—he and I—chase rainbows. When my 5th grade English teacher told me I could not write, I promised to prove her wrong, and I eventually did. I earned a degree in journalism. I worked as newspaper reporter, a book writer and editor, a magazine editor, and now a freelance science writer. When my husband wanted to open his dream store—a bicycle sales and retail shop—in the months before our daughter’s birth, we chased two rainbows. We took a second mortgage to finance the store. He had no income for two years. I nursed our daughter, changed her diapers, rocked her, and held her, all the while, wearing off the letters on my keyboard so I could support us financially, doing the one thing that 5th grade teacher had told me I could not do.
Even now, as I look into going back to school for an MFA in creative writing, I am running. I graduated 15 years ago. I no longer remember algebra, geometry, or many other subjects that will vex me when I take the GREs, but I’m still chasing that rainbow. I am because I’ve wanted to write novels since the third grade. I’m running because I believe in trying. I believe in chasing rainbows, even if I can’t catch them.
“Yes, you’re really fast,” I told my wide-eyed girl. “But, the next time you see a rainbow, come find me, so we can chase it together.”
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