On the southeast side of my house there's a large arched window. When the morning sun shines through it, it adds a colorful splash of rainbows to the walls of my curved stairway and the second floor landing. Those rainbows have proved to be a source of delight for my grandchildren. When Alena was two she pretended to gobble up my rainbows, then laughed and laughed, considering it some kind of joke on Grandma. Today Jen turns four, but over the past two years, she has invented all kind of games with the rainbows. Her current one is stepping between them and the sunbeams so that they disappear, then suddenly stepping aside so that they appear again. She's even discovered that if she places her hand over one, the rainbow appears on her little hand. Some of the grandchildren have asked dozens of questions in an effort to understand the hows and whys of the rainbows' appearance. I've overheard the older ones explaining to the younger ones the properties of light that create the phenomena, and one wanted to "borrow" a piece of glass so he could replicate the rainbow and one who stubbornly insisted it must have rained during the night because rainbows are a signal the rain has ended.
Christmas was only a few weeks ago and now in February, I have three grandchildren with birthdays, so I've spent quite a bit of time of late in toy stores or toy departments of both the brick and mortar variety and online. I've noticed toys are extremely expensive, the majority are centered on a specific movie or television program leaving little room for imagination, many are ugly or grotesque, and a good share of them are flimsy junk. I've also noticed my grandchildren have so many toys, there isn't much left for me to pick for gifts for them.
Like most people my age, I'm aware our grandchildren live and play in a world far different from the one we grew up in. I grew up with seven siblings. All eight of us kept our toys in one cardboard box. I dreamed of owning an electric train, but Santa always brought me a doll and a new dress. But horses, dogs, baby chicks, kittens in the barn, and lambs or calves to be fed with a bottle filled our days. Yet, I too, stopped to stare in wonder at rainbows, those beautiful arches that span the sky following a rainstorm or that dance across the waters of an icy trout stream. They even glimmer on the surface of an oil slick or soap bubble or splash across a sun-drenched wall or floor. I'm aware a tacky multi-colored flag is sometimes referred to as a rainbow flag and a troop of wandering freeloaders who pollute our forests has claimed the rainbow as their symbol; I'm not referring to that kind of man-made rainbow. I marvel at the sudden burst of beauty found in real, honest-to-goodness rainbows. Those are the rainbows that engender wonder, awe, and imagination. It isn't expensive toys, organized games and classes, day care, or structured agendas, but rainbows that invite children to dream, to learn, and to create.