Bleary-eyed to the point of sleepwalking – I make my way down the long bed, pausing from time to time to reassure myself that the drip tape is landing perfectly on top of the middle row. I know Daddy is at the pump, unclogging the filter and refilling the gasoline, but he is impossible to make out in the still-dark bottomland.
The night before, Daddy had asked me to join him in moving the tapes at 10pm, but later he came to my room, coughing painfully. I stared worriedly at the dark circles around his weary eyes as he told me that we would move the tapes early the next morning instead.
Irrigating had stolen both my father’s mental and physical energy – sprinting time and time again each day down beds with a tape in hand was hard on his legs and lungs, and deciding just how to arrange the pump and various hoses so that every plant or seed that needed water was granted their share was emotionally draining.
As I lay the drip tape, I wonder how many more times we will have to move the tapes and hoses to irrigate. Daddy had told me that until the rains came, there was no choice but to keep on watering, and though we longed for the sky to open and pour down rain, almost a month had gone by without a single drop. “Forty percent chance” might as well mean “zero percent chance,” since the rainstorms kept missing us, instead dumping rain just north of our farm.
But as the sun drifts up and Daddy and I, joined by the farm hands, begin the Tuesday CSA harvest, black rain clouds start to gather in the corners of the sky. We all doubt that rain will fall, though – too let down by the latest weather to gather hope in our hearts. Even as the skies darken, clouds smolder, wind picks up, and Koko starts to whimper, I am afraid to believe that a rainstorm will actually hit us.
As Val and I pick heirloom tomatoes in the field, I hear a sudden crack of thunder and hope strikes inside of me. Daddy feels it, too, and even though we are not yet done picking the row, he rushes us to the truck and up to the shed.
We all hold our breaths as we see the first sprinkles of water splatter on the ground outside the shed, and suddenly, like a great sigh of relief, the sky breaks open. The sound of smacking water against the metal roof of the shed is so loud that our shouts of joy are muffled.
I smile to myself as I help Grandma sort the ripe and unripe, good and bad tomatoes onto trays. I listen, in awe and thanks, to the continuous drumroll of rain on the roof as I gently place blushing red tomatoes on straw-covered trays.
When the rain finally lets up, Grandma looks around and asks me, “Do you think that’s the end?” But Mother Nature answers before I can open my mouth. Suddenly, the rain goes from peaceful dripping to full out dumping and the bombardment of water on the roof reminds me of waves crashing in the sea. Stunned and surprised, the farm hands rush to the opening of the shed to watch the sheets of rain come down.
But I am more mesmerized by the sight near the trays of tomatoes before me – Grandpa and Grandma are standing close together, looking out away from me. Grandpa is leaning down towards Grandma, who is pointing excitedly at the phenomenon outside. Both are grinning, lost in the moment.
I wish then, to remember those smiles forever.