Sitting tonight in my favorite make-your-own bibimbap place on a rainy night. Rainy nights seem to be good for reflection. Maybe it’s the meditative rhythm of the raindrops, or maybe it’s the underlying metaphor of the world being washed. I think, for me, it has more to do with childhood walks in the rain, deep in the woods. Rainy days used to be an event- rather than staying inside, I got to put on my rubber boots and coat and wander through a world made new by water, looking for bright orange salamanders.
So, I’ve never disliked rainy days like some people do. They’ve always seemed a little magical to me.
They play very interesting music in this bibimbap place. When I walked in, the little old lady and her husband were listening to ragtime. I picked a table right next to the toasty woodstove and stood with the old lady, who smiled with me as we rubbed our hands together over the stove. Soon, they started playing old American folk songs, starting with “Clementine.”
That got me thinking about being a little kid again. Growing up in a succession of rambling old farmhouses around the country with no TV, I found a lot of other ways to amuse myself. My father had this small paperback book called “The Backpacker’s Songbook” that I used to pore over as though it were a storybook. I knew every one of those songs by heart. My father would get out his guitar and we’d sing them, too, but I liked to just sit and read the lyrics. They always started off sort of sad and pretty, but by the third verse or so, some poor girl was getting dragged down to the river by her one true love.
As I sat there in front of my tray of neatly arranged Korean dishes, I began to wonder how much those tragic songs planted seeds of mistrust in my child’s brain. I sure didn’t want to end up like Clementine or Little Maggie. Even “Beautiful Brown Eyes” turns out to be a tale of woe. But on the other hand, I wondered what it felt like to “lay ’round the shack till the mail train comes back, a-rollin’ in my sweet baby’s arms.”
Those songs taught me a lot.
Willie, my darling, I love you, Love you with all my heart. Tomorrow we could have been married, But liquor has kept us apart. Chorus: Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes, Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes, Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes-- I'll never love blue eyes again. Down through the barroom he staggered And fell down by the door. The very last words that he murmured: "I'll never get drunk any more." (Chorus) Seven long years I've been married, And I wish I was single again. A woman never knows her troubles Until she has married a man. (Chorus)