But last night, the rain-song on my roof chilled me. I envisioned the people we met on Saturday at Tent City, huddled under scratchy woolen blankets, with nothing but the thin fabric of a tent or tarp to keep out the rain and cold.
"There are no children living at Tent City," the Welcome Tent Woman tells me on Saturday as we unload some food and supplies. She is unaccountably bright-eyed and chipper for someone who spends each night nigh under the stars. Her sparkling eyes reflect the flame of a hope that refuses to be extinguished, in spite of her circumstances.
I'd like to stay and ask her about those eyes, but the girls are Wild Things, running in and out of the Tent Pantry, declaring "You sure have a lot of shelves! And a lot of coffee! And a lot of juice! That's so silly!" The girls see the port-a-potties and, to my chagrin, muster enough pee to justify their use.
We pile into the van, and as we drive away, Eleanor says, pointing, "I want to stay in that tent."
"Well, that tent is someone's home right now, and you can't stay in someone's home unless you know them, and you are invited," I say to her.
"Were we invited?," Sylvia wants to know. "No," I reply.
"Well, they have juice there," says Eleanor, revealing her motive. Ah yes, a place where the juice runs freely, I think, a veritable juice paradise.
We drive home, and spend the afternoon indoors, as the rain drizzles outside. Sylvia helps me bake cookies, comfortably nestling her 4-year-old body on the kitchen counter as she tastes each ingredient (except the eggs) in her little bowl.
While dinner cooks on the stove, we watch Dan Zanes music videos on the computer. Entranced by Zanes' amazing only-in-America-do-you-see-such-straight-white-teeth and his funny, wild hair, we take turns flapping our arms like chickens and turning them into waving trees as we sing, all around the kitchen (cockadoodle doodle do), all around the kitchen (cockadoodle doodle do)...
That day, nothing more is said about Tent City, or their Juice Stockpile. Instead, our thoughts trickle out like a leaky faucet, over the course of the coming days.
This morning, Sylvia looks up from her legos to make an announcement, which she declares as a definitive solution to a problem we've all been pondering: "When someone in our house dies, then one of the people who don't have a home can come and live in our house instead of the person who died." "Hmm," I say hopefully, the lilt in my voice indicating that would be one way to solve the problem.
We're listening to Dan Zanes again on the way to gymnastics. He's singing, "pay me you owe me, pay me my money down, pay me or go to jail, pay me my money down." Sylvia responds, "That man wants the money so he can buy a home."
I recall the out-of-the-blue question Sylvia asked me last week on the way to preschool: "Mama, why did God not build a house for him?" Without explanation, I know instantly she is referring to the man at our exit, the one with the sign that reads, "Homeless. Anything Helps. God Bless."
"Yeah, that's not fair, right Mama?," Sylvia asks.
I wonder whether she's thinking too much about the man at our exit, and the people at Tent City. Surely these matters are too weighty for a 4-year-old to bear.
Sylvia is safe. She does not need to be shielded from thinking of others, from demonstrating concern beyond herself.
I want her to listen to the rain, and know this: Sometimes the melody is joyful, and sometimes it is sorrowful.