Sunday, May 15, 2011

Where umbrellas are used to block the sun

I grew up in the desert of far west Texas where kids had one winter coat, got suntans on Christmas Day, and marveled at why John Steed carried an umbrella on The Avengers. Was it to provide shade for Emma Peel?

Seeing next week’s dreary weather forecast for Massachusetts and watching the president’s recent speech under the blazing hot sun in El Paso, Texas, reminded me of my daughter’s high school graduation ceremony.

The weather had been stormy for several days in El Paso before graduation day, especially in the late afternoon and early evening. With a 6 o’clock start, the school superintendent had a tough call to make. Keep the ceremony outside and risk a thunderstorm ruining the commencement exercises or move it inside where there was only room for four relatives per student.

The decision was made at about 4 o’clock to go ahead with the outdoor venue. At the time, there were huge thunderclouds, lightening, and downpours around the city. Spotty, but heavy.

Mary and I were at my mother’s house and thought it a good idea to grab some umbrellas, just in case. Digging through the coat closet, I came up with a single umbrella. Well, not really an umbrella, but more of a parasol that was designed to look like a daisy complete with scalloped edges. It weighed about three ounces and spanned an impressive two feet.

I figured it was better than nothing. Maybe I could use it to keep my video camera dry.

We arrived at the stadium along with two or three thousand other people carrying a variety of parasols, from Barney and Friends to Dora the Explorer (qué precioso). We climbed the 50-yard line steps to stake out a spot with a good view and waited for the procession to start.

That’s when another family showed up and plopped down right in front us. No problem. It was a football stadium and you could easily see over the row in front of you, or so I thought.

This family apparently didn’t have the ubiquitous Sesame Street parasol. No, not even one of those annoying golf umbrellas. They brought the umbrella from their backyard patio table. The dad was holding the pole steady on the bleacher seat while his kid was cranking the ratchet.

With it opened in all its glory, all fifteen of their family members fit easily under it with plenty of room to spare. Of course, our view had now changed to what looked like the top of a giant party tent with the nearest open seating down in the end zone.

They tell me that our daughter graduated with honors. I’ll just have to trust them on that.

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