A Household Word: Can You Cash a Rain Check?
Rustic cottage on peaceful lake. Spectacular views, private beach, dock, canoe. Sleeps five …

The place sounded ideal. Sure, it was a little more than I wanted to spend on a week’s rental, but it would probably be worth it. The only thing the ad didn’t promise was sunshine. But, hey, we were owed a week of good weather. After all, my family had paid their dues to the vacation gods.

Last year, we were rained on at the seashore. The year before that, were rained on in the mountains. We’ve seen precipitation from Portland to Puerto Vallarta. (Su vacacion, amigos? Pobre usted!)

Our family vacations are notorious for their bad timing. In fact, at my husband’s office, his co-workers wait until he’s booked his vacation before they schedule their own time off. They know that the rain will always fall on the Band family’s week away.

But this time, the weather seemed more promising. As we packed the car, the sun was rising on what looked to be a beautiful day at our house.

“Red sky at morning, sailor’s delight!” I sang out as we hit the highway.

“That’s red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” corrected my oldest son. “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”

Undaunted, we hurtled down the highway straight toward the steely clouds forming in the distance. Two hours later, we turned on the windshield wipers.

I used my finger on the foggy window to calculate the cabin’s daily rental rate. One afternoon of rain would be fine. Besides, we could use the time to unpack all the inflatable rafts and sunscreen.

As we lurched down the dirt driveway to the cabin, it was still raining. Hard.

The place was just as the ad described: Rustic – a term that I have since learned is real estate agents’ code for “crummy.” The spectacular view was obscured by fog. I tried to be optimistic.

“Good thing that it’s raining,” I announced. “Otherwise, we might have spent all day outside and gotten a sunburn.”

“Yeah, good thing,” said my husband as he stretched out on the mildewed sofa in the living room and fell asleep.

At first, the rain was kind of cozy. We pulled on our sweatshirts and played Go Fish with a deck of 49 slightly soggy cards. For dinner, instead of hamburgers on the grill, we ate Kraft™, drank hot cocoa and watched the rain soak the 20-pound bag of charcoal briquettes that I had brought from home and left next to the grill. Mentally I added the price of a new bag of charcoal to our rental fee.

Day Two
I was awakened by the sound of raindrops bouncing off the skylight in the bedroom. Lying in the strange and slightly musty bed, I began calculating how much of our rental money was being washed away. I nudged my sleeping husband. “Honey,” I said, “if it stops raining by
noon, we’ll still have five days of sunshine – that’s plenty.”

I mentally divided our remaining days by the weekly rent. I factored in water temperature, cloud cover and the price of another deck of cards. My mathematics were interrupted by the sound of the kids fighting over the Game Boy™. It was time to get tough.

“OK,” I said, “even though it’s raining, we can still have fun outside. Change into your bathing suits and follow me.”

I wrapped a towel around my shoulders and strode across the muddy lawn and into the murky lake. The kids stood on the shore with towels draped over their heads and watched me with wary eyes.

“Mom, come back,” shouted the 10-year-old Lewis. “I think I saw lightning!”

“OK,” I conceded. “Maybe swimming is out, but we can still enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors. Let’s take a hike.”

“Wildlife love this kind of weather,” I promised as I fashioned ponchos out of trash bags. “I bet we’ll see all kinds of animals.”

“Are worms wildlife?” asked Lewis.

The mosquitoes drove us back from our hike. It was 10 a.m.

“Is there a mall around here?” my 14-year-old daughter asked hopefully.

“No,” I said. “Besides, we’re here to enjoy the beauty of nature and to revel in each other’s company.”

“Gee, that sounds like fun,” she said.

I made brownies from a mix I had brought from home. Heck, I thought as I licked a spoonful of batter, I don’t need to watch my figure if I never put on a bathing suit. I added the price of my new swimsuit and a membership to Weight Watchers™ to the week’s rental.

Day Three
My husband continued to nap on the couch, seemingly oblivious to the vacation disaster unfolding around him.

“Wake up,” I told him. “It’s raining.”

I had become obsessed with the weather and was getting a stiff neck from scanning the sky for a sign of sun. I made a note to book a massage when we got home and added that cost to the week’s rental. I collected the damp sweatshirts, dirty jeans and wet towels and drove to the local Laundromat where I fed quarters into the dryers and increased the weekly rent by $3.25. I felt justified slipping the Laundromat’s March issue of People magazine into my purse.

Day Four
In an act of self-preservation, I scoured the local newspaper for the location of the nearest multiplex cinema. It was a 40-mile drive to watch a matinee that we saw last month at home. While little Nemo and his dad struggled to reunite, I silently added the cost of movie tickets and popcorn to our vacation-rental fee. I also tacked on a few bucks for mileage.

As we left the darkened movie theater and walked through the parking lot, it took a minute for our eyes adjust to the light. Wait. It wasn’t just light, it was bright. It was sunny!

Back at the cabin, my husband was asleep in a lawn chair on the dock. The water was sparkling and the view from the lake was, indeed, spectacular. As the kids splashed and laughed I thought about calculating the price of this moment. Instead, I went swimming.

Carol Band is planning her family’s next vacation for the next rainy season. Write to her at

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