I like rainbows. They brighten up the grayest of days. Rainbows belong to everyone: I don’t want any special interest group to claim ownership of rainbows, just like I don’t want any one group to think that they own the American flag.
I don’t know when rainbows became significant to me, but the roots may lie in my childhood. My father, the Baptist preacher, had a “stock” sermon that he used whenever he was asked to preach at a church we happened to be visiting.
(This happened fairly often, as his church, deep in rural farm country, did not hold Sunday evening services, so we visited a variety of churches in town. Truly believing that all believers in Christ were brothers and sisters, we visited Black churches, Mexican churches, and even a Chinese church…this was in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. He was a man well ahead of his time. But I digress.)
His “stock” sermon was about the end of Noah’s voyage, when God put a rainbow in the sky as a promise never to flood the earth again. I must have heard that sermon a half a dozen times, so that may have had an effect.
A few years back I spotted a young woman carrying a large rainbow umbrella one rainy day in Paris. The colors were so vivid against the dull, metallic sky. The yellow panel, especially, seemed to illuminate the space around the woman carrying it. I had to have one for myself.
I wasn’t satisfied with the typical American 8-panel umbrella. I wanted the Parisian style with 16 panels, each one a subtly different color from the adjacent panel. It took a while, but we finally located one in a back corner of Galeries Lafayette. Knowing how difficult it was to find, and how fragile umbrellas can be, I buy one whenever I stumble across one. I now have a couple of spares, purchased in Nice, France and Lucca, Italy. A couple of the ribs of my Parisian umbrella have bent, so I may have to retire it soon.
Quite a few years ago, when my waist measurement began to exceed my hip measurement, I realized that a belt would no longer keep my pants from drifting southward. I’ve never liked the look that so many overweight men affect, where they cinch their pants below their belly. My solution was to buy larger pants and hold them up the old-fashioned way, with suspenders. Since I was still working, I purchased several pairs of suspenders in plain colors to match my trousers: blue, tan, and black. These were nicely functional, but not very decorative, and they were just not strong enough to hold up what I considered to be my real pants: Levis.
In a gesture that she may have come to regret, Katie dug out a pair of 2” wide suspenders she used as part of a clown costume. (A Clown Costume!) These were not merely strong enough, they were decorative in just the right way: a simple arrangement of 0.3” wide colored stripes arranged from red to orange to yellow to green to blue to black in rainbow sequence. Without knowing it, Katie launched me on a signature style…I’ve been wearing rainbow suspenders ever since. People may not remember my name, but they always remember “the guy in the rainbow suspenders.”
Rainbow suspenders draw lots of comments, usually complements, usually from young, attractive women. We can’t go out without hearing someone say how much they like the rainbow suspenders. On a single trip to the supermarket recently, three different women complemented me. Not long ago I was depositing a few checks at the local bank’s ATM. A nicely dressed, good looking, twenty something man was at the ATM next to mine when a gorgeous young woman emerged from the bank proper. As she passed me, she commented, “I really love your suspenders!” and walked out. The guy next to me turned and said, “I’ve got to get me a pair of those.”
These days I rarely leave the house without a rainbow around my shoulders.