“Let’s make rainbows today,” my mother suggested. My brother and I were sat staring at our bowls of soggy cereal. “You two look like you need cheering up!”
My big brother shifted his stare to his orange juice, then grunted.
“It’s Friday. I have art Friday mornings,” I said, thinking about how much fun it would be to sit next to Ruby and Zara, painting pictures and cutting paper shapes. “I miss art. I miss school.”
“Then let’s have our own art lesson here,” answered my mother, her voice sounding excited and encouraging. “What do you say, James?”
“I don’t like art. I like P.E.,” James clarified to our mother, focusing back on his cereal bowl again. “And I definitely don’t want to make rainbows, whatever that means.”
My mother drew in a big breath, held it for a count of five, then let the air pass slowly out of her mouth.
Our school has been closed for a month. Since then, I have noticed that my mother holds her breath a lot when James says he doesn’t want to do something. It’s not easy being home all the time—it’s not very fun for me and James because we miss our friends. Some days I think James is extra grumpy. I don’t think my mother likes it when James is grumpy.
My mother loves us very much but I know it also cannot be easy for her to now work from home and try to home-school us. ESPECIALLY when my brother does not want to make rainbows.
“James,” my mother explained, “you still have to learn even if you’re not at school and art can be fun. Give it a try!”
My mother and I both looked at James and waited for what seemed like a very long time for his answer. His mouth scrunched up a lot and his blue eyes got all squinty. I knew that look. He was definitely deciding what was the best thing to do: go along with our mother’s suggestion or dig his heels in. I didn’t think James wanted to see my mother count to five with her mouth full of air again.
“Okay,” he mumbled. “I’ll try it. But I’m not making rainbows!”
Sometimes it feels like my mother and my brother are having a battle to see who wins. That first round was won by my mother. James was going to do art.
“Why are we making rainbows anyway?” I asked my mother. “Can we paint puppies or flowers or trees or spaghetti instead? I love all of those things!”
“I’ll explain the rainbows. Effie, go get your paints and put on your apron. James, you’ll need to wear an old t-shirt. I’ll get some paper plates and I’ll cover the table. Meet you back here in two minutes.”
“Paper plates!” James and I shouted out at the same time.
“Paper plates! Now, hurry so we can get started.”
James and I carried our breakfast bowls and glasses into the kitchen sink then hurried off to our bedrooms.
Art is my favourite thing to do, other than playing with my friends. So I was feeling happier than when I woke up that morning and saw the rain and grey sky outside my window. I pulled on my purple apron that hangs on my desk chair and I stuffed paints and brushes into its deep pockets.
We met back in the dining room minutes later. My mother had covered the wooden table-top with the blue plastic sheet we use for messy projects. She had filled two glasses with water to clean our brushes and had placed a white, paper plate in front of three chairs at the table. Between the plates were enormous piles of colourful markers, pencils and crayons.
“Yay! My favourite lesson of the day!” I shouted, adding my pocketed tubes of paint and brushes to the collection of supplies.
“What do you think, James?” Asked my mother.
Since my brother recently turned ten he uses the word interesting a lot. It seems to mean many things to James, but mostly he says interesting when my mother suggests something new to do or she cooks something he’s not eaten before. Maybe James thinks the best thing to say to something new is interesting. I think it’s interesting that James does that!
“Great,” our mother replied, smiling and motioning to us to sit down. “And after we finish art, we can go in the garden and I’ll teach a P.E. lesson. Sound good, James?”
“Sounds…interesting.” This time, I agreed with James. The idea of my mother teaching P.E. definitely sounded interesting.
Our lesson began with my mother’s instructions: “While you have had to stay home and not go to school the past few weeks, many grown-ups have also had to stay home and look after their families. They have had to work from home—”
“Like you,” I said.
“Yes, Effie. Like me. But lots of other grown-ups have kept working because their jobs are essential to everyone.”
“What’s essential mean?” I asked.
“It means their jobs are very important right now to help us. Like nurses and doctors, people who sell us groceries and—”
“Football players are essential,” interrupted my brother.
“I’m sure they are essential to you because you love football, sweetheart, but essential workers are people who have jobs we cannot do without.”
“But—” James interrupted again.
My mother held up her hand in her gesture that means stop right there and don’t answer back. Then she said: “I know what you are going to say, lovely. That athletes are essential workers. I know athletes are important to you and to many people who love sports. But I’m talking about the grown-ups who go to work every day to make poorly people feel better and keep us safe and make sure we have food to eat.”
“Like your cereal, James. You have to have your cereal every morning or you’re grumpy,” I added.
James sat quietly, looking at me and my mother. Again I wondered if inside his head he was wondering if it was better to continue stating his point or simply accept that the people he thought were essential were maybe not THE MOST essential to us right now.
Or maybe James was thinking that he wanted to tell my mother to stop calling him sweetheart and lovely, as she does that a lot. A lot, a lot. But I kind of like her calling us those names. She does it because she loves us.
“I got it. Football players are not essential,” James murmured. Round two won by my mother. “But I’m still not going to paint rainbows.”
My mother continued: “One way that people are showing their support and gratitude to essential workers is by painting rainbows then putting their pictures up in their windows.”
“Like an art gallery?” I asked.
“Kind of,” my mother answered. “Just think how lovely it must be for essential workers walking or driving past homes that are showing their support. All those beautiful rainbows in windows must make them feel very happy!”
“Can I just write thank you on a paper plate?” Asked James.
“I guess you could, sweetheart.” From the corner of my eye I saw James wince. He thinks he’s too big now to be called anything other than James. Sometimes I also hear his friends call him mate. My mother would never call him mate.
“Why don’t you make a football?” I suggested. “The plate’s round anyway and then you can make a picture of something you like. You definitely don’t like rainbows.”
“That’s a great idea, Effie!” My mother agreed. “Why not make a football using rainbow colours? That would really stand out in our window.”
I wasn’t expecting my brother to make anything that morning but my football idea seemed to change his mind. James picked up a fistful of coloured markers and began colouring football designs.
I decided to paint a big rainbow. And a heart.
My mother also decorated a plate. She drew a rainbow with markers and underneath drew a picture of our family.
We all wrote Thank you! on our plates.
“Ooh!” My mother said, looking at our creations. “What a beautiful rainbow, Effie!”
It really was one of my favourite rainbow drawings ever! Red and orange, yellow and green, blue and purple…plus a giant red heart!
“And I love those shapes on your football, James. Do you know what those shapes are called?”
“Football shapes,” James replied. I don’t think he was really trying to give a correct answer because football shapes is not really a thing.
“Interesting,” I said to him, smiling at my mother. James did not smile. Instead, James said to me that my rainbow was not interesting at all. I stuck my tongue out at him. He stuck his tongue back out at me.
“Alright, kids!” My mother said firmly. “This is meant to be fun! Be kind to each other. That’s what this lesson is all about. We are making these to show kindness and care to other people. So be kind and caring towards each other. Got it?”
James and I nodded.
“I really do love your football design, James,” added my mother. “Those shapes on the ball have six sides so they are called—”
“Hexagons,” answered James.
“You see—now we’re having a maths lesson!” My mother smiled and looked very happy that James and I were learning something while we were not at school. My teacher, Miss Wolf, has been sending me homework to do at home while we’re not in school and I have missed seeing Miss Wolf because she is the best teacher in the world. But today I decided my mother would be an AMAZING teacher!
“Ready to put them on show?” We nodded and each of us carried our decorated plates to the front window of our house. My mother flipped them over so the pictures faced the outside, then stuck the plates to the glass with Selotape.
The three of us stood there for a minute quietly, staring out of the window at the rainy morning.
“I don’t see anyone walking by!” I said, feeling a bit upset that no one was looking at our rainbows.
“Remember, sweetheart, that most families are staying indoors and only going out once a day for exercise. A lot of the essential workers will be working right now. But people will see our Thank you! art. When it stops raining, I’m sure we’ll see our neighbours walk by. Mrs. Wilson will walk by with her dog, because Rex needs to walk outside every day. She’ll love our rainbows.”
“And maybe we can tell our friends about our pictures,” I suggested. “Then they can stop by our house when they go out walking with their families.”
“Absolutely!” Agreed my mother.
“Can we send them messages now? I want to tell Ruby and Zara about my rainbow picture.”
“Yes, lovely. We can let Ruby and Zara know. And we can also let your friends know, James. I’m sure they’ll also think it’s—”
“Interesting,” replied James.
“Right. Interesting. We can let all your friends know about rainbows. Maybe they’ve already made their own rainbows. Now, let’s clean these brushes and tidy the table then we’ll get ready for our P.E. lesson.”
I glanced at James. His face looked like he was trying to figure out what was the best answer to give my mother again: either go along with her P.E. lesson or try to talk her out of it.
“You know what? P.E. sounds great but it’s raining outside. P.E. in the rain isn’t very fun,” James answered. I think James had come up with a third answer: use the rain an excuse not to have his mother become his new P.E. teacher. “Maybe we should just go for a walk.”
I was worried that my mother would be upset by James not wanting her to teach us but my mother’s face looked happy.
“Great idea, James! Let’s put our coats on and go look at rainbows!”
James says he does not miss school but I think that morning, he would have wanted to be at school in his P.E. lesson with his friends. I don’t think James wanted to walk around in the rain, looking at rainbows. But we are a family and my mother said it was important that families stick together and be kind to each other and to other people, especially essential workers.
So we went out in the rain and looked at people’s windows.
We saw giant rainbows painted on cardboard and small rainbows coloured with crayons. Some people had taped multi-coloured letters to their windows that spelled out: T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U-!
We even walked by one house where someone had knitted a rainbow and hung it on their door!
After a long walk, the three of us returned home and saw two familiar people standing across the road from our house. It was one of my best-friends, Zara, with her mother!
“I love your rainbow, Effie!” Shouted Zara.
I waved with both my hands. “Thank you!”
“I’m going to go home now and make rainbows, too!” Zara said, then I watched her turn and walk away with her mother. I felt sad because Zara and I can’t play together every day like we usually do. My mother says we will play together again soon but we now need to follow the rules so we stay healthy.
“Shall we walk by Zara’s house tomorrow and see her rainbows?” My mother suggested.
“Yes! Yes, yes, yes!” I answered.
“And maybe the sun will be out tomorrow, James. Then we can have P.E. in the garden. We can run around with your new football, the one you got for your birthday.”
“Maybe…,” my brother answered. “Yeah, I guess that would be fun.”
My mother smiled and my brother smiled back. Round three to both of them.
My brother and my mother love each other. I know that. And even if they sometimes seem to have little battles, everything always works out okay.
The sounds of raindrops were growing louder under my mother’s huge umbrella. Fat blobs of water fell from the sky and I was hungry for lunch.
“Let’s go inside,” my mother suggested. We began walking towards our front door when a voice shouted over to us from across the road.
The three of us turned around to see a man hunched in the rain. It was our postman, Mr. Jones, standing opposite from our house. He was wearing a blue cap and a red raincoat, with a large sack slung over his shoulder.
“Thank you for your rainbow pictures. They really cheered me up today!”
“You’re welcome,” my mother replied. “We are grateful for all your hard work!”
“Are you essential?” I shouted over to the man.
“I guess so,” he answered. “People still need to receive their post! And I’ve just put lots of letters through your door!”
“Oh, thank you!” I said, hoping that there was a card waiting for me from my grandparents because I had not been able to visit them for a month.
The man smiled and tipped his hat at us. “At your service, Miss Effie!” We all laughed. “Have a good day,” he said, then continued along our road in the rain, pushing letters from his heavy sack through the slots in our neighbours’ doors.
“Hot chocolates?” My mother really knew how to cheer up our days!
“Yes!” James and I said. “Yes, yes, yes!”
And that’s how I coloured my world today.
I coloured my world in colours of the rainbow.
How did you colour your world?