When I left Seattle for college in Chicago, a girl in my dorm asked me how I handled so much rain. “It doesn’t rain that much,” I said, the first of many times I’d give that answer. Of course, it wasn’t true. I spent my childhood with permanently wet pant bottoms and my teenage years making out with boys at beaches, sand sticking to the backs of our jackets, falling away in clumps when we stood. We knew better than to sit on wet park benches without newspapers. We learned never to brake when we hydroplaned. I experienced rain as a lifestyle, not a weather event, and my rituals were as much about protecting myself from it as they were about embracing the rain, since it would still always win.
I returned to Seattle a few years ago,* after 14 years living first in Chicago, and then New York City, with my East Coast–born husband and daughter. Since moving back, I’ve watched them acclimate. My husband spent the early weeks of his first Seattle winter jamming bare feet into Vans, thinking it didn’t seem rainy enough to warrant socks. The dampness, he said later, leached into him and he couldn’t get rid of it. He shivered for days. Eventually he thanked my mother for the thick, cotton socks she had given him upon arrival. He wore them like badges of honor and swore he’d put them on earlier the next year.
My daughter understood quickly that the rain must be respected if it’s to be enjoyed. At first, she reveled in puddles. Now she avoids them if she doesn’t have a change of clothes. But knowing warmth awaits, she’ll still play barefoot in a cold, muddy backyard. Many of our favorite days as a family are the soggy ones—the smell, the sound—experienced from somewhere dry: under a tarp while camping; beside an open window; in protective jackets, only the sleeves’ edges wet against our wrists.
On what felt like the millionth day of last winter’s sustained rains,** I asked my daughter if she wished we lived somewhere drier. She responded as a true Seattleite: “Sometimes. But I like it here! It doesn’t rain that much.”
*Our family came back to open Mean Sandwich in Ballard, which we have since sold.
**From November 30, 2019, to February 17, 2020, Seattle did not technically have a cloudless day.