By Crystal Chen
The feeling of rain:
When I think of rain, I think of the humidity of my home in Taiwan, the oddly shaped puddles that my sister and I would skip into instead of away from. I think of afternoon walks with my family when we still lived in Singapore and how we would share umbrellas because we were always losing them in restaurants.
I wear flip flops at Stanford during the rain season — partly because I don’t like the squishiness of soggy socks and partly because I like to imagine that I’m swimming on land. For the same reason, I also like humidity and heat because the moistness and warmth that hug my body make me feel as if I’m back in kindergarten swimming in the bathtub with my sister.
When the pipe above my door in my freshman year dorm burst (shoutout to JRo), I watched my carpet gradually turn a shade of soaked. Then, I ran from an indoor rain shower to an outdoor downpour. Rain brews memories like these –– spontaneous, a little chaotic, but precious all the same.
The sound of rain:
It was 4 a.m. in a small county in Taiwan, and I was sitting halfway through my gap quarter doing what I usually do at this time –– brushing my teeth while listening to another Vice documentary. This time it was “The Real Nancy Botwin from ‘Weeds’?”
I’d forgotten that it was still raining outside. I barely noticed its presence until I stepped out of the car into a slight drizzle to switch seats with my mom so she could do the driving instead of me; this way, I would be able to share the bag of popcorn in the backseat with my sister. The sound of rain was so light I almost didn’t hear it outside the window — until I went to the bakery to buy my sister’s breakfast for the next week but ended up eating most of it for dinner.
On other days, rain was not as subtle; it left me wondering why the yellow plastic raincoat I bought in the nearby 7-Eleven ripped so easily, especially during my first and only time attending a concert. On that day, my mama, my sister and I ran from station to station in the rain. They were going to drop me off with a friend at the concert while they hung around outside. Even though our family only bought one concert ticket, my sister was so excited for me that we choreographed a Father’s Day dance piece and created lyric mashups with the artist’s songs in the months leading up to the concert. Maybe it was luck and the rain, but someone offered to sell us another ticket on the day of. That day, my sister and I shared our first concert experience together.
The sight of rain:
Lightning and thunder remind me of an ancient Chinese bedtime story that my baba used to tell my sister and me when we were little, while he lay between us on our shared bed.
The story went like this: On a rainy day a long, long time ago, before lightning even existed, a young girl poured rice husk into the sink, since it was hard for her old mother to chew. In the dark, the God of Thunder mistook her action for wasting food and murdered her with thunder. When the Jade Emperor (the first god) discovered that the God of Thunder wrongfully killed the young girl, he made her the Goddess of Lightning, who used mirrors to shine light onto the world so that the God of Thunder would be able to see more clearly and not make another mistake.
Tonight, the Goddess of Lightning and God of Thunder were hard at work. From little white squiggly lines to blinding white flashes that covered my entire view, the Goddess of Lightning brought a whole concert of lights to my window in this foggy night. Even the God of Thunder rumbled so loudly with his opera voice that I could barely hear the documentary playing in the background.
Across the river that divided our county from our city, the skyscrapers and night lights began to blur. Even when I return to the part of California that seldom invites rain for a visit, I will remember this majestic night of stars that lived among our unsuspecting sleepers.
6:21 a.m. My sister and baba will wake up for school and work in 19 minutes. Mama will give them the remainder of the breakfast that I bought (and ate) yesterday and small-talk with baba while he feeds the puppy we rescued from the beach. Momentarily, silence will be broken again, but by this time sleepers now awake who are unaware of the rain concert I watched from the front row just a few hours ago.
These are the unsuspecting sleepers who peer at the blue and the gray in the morning, who wonder whether skies could ever be the shade of the purple grape skins we peeled the evening before while the four of us watched a movie on the same couch. Little do they know about the rain concerto throughout the night that came before the calm.
This is rain:
Rain has been a constant in my life, no matter what roof I’ve lived under or which school I’ve attended. I have always appreciated but never particularly liked the messiness of rain, how it sits between comforting and daring. However, I like watching it. I like listening to its gentle heartbeat as I sip hot chocolate with my sister.
Rain is a familiar experience in every new environment. When I first moved to Stanford freshman year, I navigated homesickness with little understanding of the new country. Yet when winter quarter hit and the chorus of raindrops accompanied my quiet studies, I was reminded again that home was wherever I made it. As terrifying as this foreign environment was with my family an ocean away, I was also excited to explore my new home for the next four years. Rain once again sat between comforting and daring, but this time I liked its messiness; I was ready for the challenge.
Contact Crystal Chen at chen1130 ‘at’ stanford.edu.