It had been a foolish idea to bring the umbrella with us on that stormy autumn day—a silly whim propelled by a truly misguided gust of optimism.
Nothing was going to be able to protect my five-year-old son from this particular storm.
Not his mother.
And certainly not some flimsy, dollar-store umbrella.
And so the umbrella ended up being battered—badly—as any sensible person might have predicted. The wind can be as ruthless as an umbrella is unforgiving, after all.
Our hearts—his and mine—didn’t fare much better either.
Marriages aren’t supposed to fail.
Mothers aren’t supposed to leave.
And little boys aren’t supposed to be left to try to make sense of it all.
* * *
I still don’t know what led me to hold on to that umbrella—what made me decide to carry it back home with us rather than simply leaving it to writhe, tattered and broken, on the boulevard beside the bus station.
And I have absolutely no memory of heaving that grotesque and useless object up on to the top shelf of our front hall closet, where it languished, forgotten, until this morning.
In the end, all that it took to dislodge that pathetic umbrella was an innocent tug on a winter scarf—a scarf my son needed in the wake of the first heavy snowfall of the season.
His eyes lit up at the sight of the mangled umbrella, which had morphed into a nondescript hunk of nylon sporting a few twisted and misplaced aluminum spines.
“Cool! Can I have it, Dad? Can I have it, please?”
I shrugged as he bounded out the door, scarf forgotten, brandishing the umbrella like some sort of precious talisman.
As I watched, he scrambled up the mountain of snow at the bottom of our driveway, placing the hardy remnants of the umbrella across the top.
“Look, Dad. A snowfort!”
Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about parenting including, most recently, Parenting Through the Storm. She is also the weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio. You will find her on Twitter at @anndouglas and www.anndouglas.ca.