Even now, days later, people seem compelled to ask. “Well….?”
In its full form, the question is, “Well, did you get any rain?” When scattered showers roamed the area recently, excitement was high. Unfortunately, “scattered” was the operative word. A quarter mile to the west, there was no rain, not even a sprinkle. Across the lake, one friend took a dousing for a full half-hour while the marina where I’ve been working remained dry. The bank teller, the nurses’ aide and the sales clerk didn’t get a drop, while the fellow at the next gas pump, the diver from the boatyard and the lady up the street at least had a chance to turn on their windshield wipers.
In short, we enjoyed a reminder of rain rather than real rain, though I happened to be at home when the reminder fell and enjoyed it thoroughly. It rained just long enough for me to drag out my hose and wash down the balcony without creating a mess for the people below, and it rained hard enough to leave some pretty substantial puddles lying about. A half-hour later residual heat and the sun nearly had absorbed them although, to my amusement, while the puddles remained the happiest people in the neighborhood weren’t people at all.
The mallards hustled out first, staring up into the sky, catching raindrops with their beaks and flapping their wings as though applauding the clouds. Glass minnows rippled like raindrops across the surface of the water and then, in a flash of gray and black, the biggest surprise of the day came running across the lawn.
A raccoon who’d apparently been snoozing, or hiding, or doing whatever it is that raccoons like to do during the day was making a mad dash toward the puddles. It skidded along the bricks of the walkway, threw itself into the water collected there and rolled over three or four times. Then, taking to its feet and shaking off its fur, it began to drink. And drink. And drink some more. It stood there slurping up water for a full five minutes until, with another shake and a quick look around the neighborhood it made a mad, galloomphing dash back across the lawn, no doubt headed toward the security of its own raccoon-sized condo.
Watching the world frolic in her brief respite from the searing heat, I couldn’t help remembering a favorite song from my grade school years. Because we sang it in our music class, it took years for me to realize it wasn’t a song written for grade-schoolers but a recording popularized by Jane Morgan. With a singable melody and intelligible lyrics, it’s really quite 1950s-ish, but I don’t know another song that captures the delight of rain and the refreshment of life with such panache.
When I made a passing reference to the song in the comments section of a recent post, one of my European readers, the lovely Isa from Switzerland, pointed out Morgan actually was covering a song written by Frenchman Gilbert Bécaud. Known in France by the title Le Jour où la Pluie Viendra, it was given English lyrics by Carl Sigman in 1958.
Bécaud, one of a group of singers rooted in the French chanson school of plaintive melody, toured for a time as accompanist for Jaques Pills and his wife, Edith Piaf. It was Piaf who encouraged Bécaud to sing as well as write, and as time passed his marvelous performances earned him both the nickname, “Mr. 100,000 Volts” and favorable comparisons to Sinatra.
Though I’d never heard the name Bécaud until Isa piqued my curiosity, I grew up with his songs. Let It Be Me was one of my favorite Everly Brothers’ offerings, while the equally familiar What Now, My Love? seems to have been in everyone’s repertoire. Elvis, Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Nana Mouskouri and even Engelbert Humperdinck gave it a whirl – and the song survived them all.
Wandering through Bécaud’s repertoire, it becomes obvious that The Day That the Rain Came Down is a bit distinctive in French as well as in English – more upbeat and cheerful, less plaintive, a wonderful reminder of the joys of rain. It’s a useful reminder. Eventually, every drought loosens its grip, but until this one does, Bécaud and Sigman have given us the perfect song to fill birdbaths by – and raccoon saucers, too, if we’re feeling especially kind.