Jenny Berry had so many Christmas presents that she couldn’t decide which one to play with first. So, she arranged them all in a long line across the lounge carpet and just sat and looked at them. Some of the presents were not really for playing with … things like a new hat and scarf set, and a new pair of pink fluffy slippers, and a new schoolbag with side pockets just like her friend Emily’s, but she put them all in the line anyway. Then she practiced putting things in her schoolbag for a while.
Four of Jenny’s presents were books, not picture books but proper reading books for a seven-year-old. To read not to play with. There were a few pieces of furniture for her doll’s house, some puzzles and lots of bubble bath. And Jenny’s Aunty Molly had given her a special umbrella. It was special because when you opened it up you could pull it right down over your head and still see where you were going because it was a see-through umbrella. Jenny had not been able to try it out yet because Grandma Lily said it was unlucky to open an umbrella inside the house. Grandma Lily always knew things like that, although Jenny’s father said that some of the things Grandma Lily said were just plain daft. Grandma always smiled at him and said: ‘Just you wait and see, Mr Berry, just you wait and see!’
Anyway, this story is about Jenny’s new see-through umbrella, and it really starts two weeks after Christmas, on a rainy day in January …
Jenny was standing on her toy box watching the rain falling against her bedroom window. Today was Saturday which was market day and Jenny’s mother was taking her to town to meet Grandma Lily for lunch and then they were all going to visit the library. Jenny didn’t usually like going out in the rain but today she was quite looking forward to it because she was going to try out her new umbrella. She heard her mother calling up the stairs:
‘Jenny, hurry up! Daddy’s just putting Wills in the car.’ Wills was Jenny’s very new brother. He was only three months old and he couldn’t do very many things yet, although he could smile and kick his socks off.
Jenny hurried downstairs. Then, suddenly, as her mum was helping her on with her coat and Wellington boots, the front door burst open and Mr Berry hurried inside holding a shopping bag above his head: ‘It’s raining cats and dogs out there,’ he said.
Jenny stared at her father: ‘Raining cats and dogs? Can we keep one, mummy?’
Jenny’s mum laughed: ‘It’s just a saying, Jenny. Raining cats and dogs means it’s raining very hard.’
Jenny frowned and wondered why people just didn’t say what they meant. She pointed to the walking stick and umbrella pot: ‘Daddy, will you pass me my new umbrella, please?’
Mr Berry picked up the umbrella: ‘Well, at least it’s a perfect day to try out your new brolly.’
Again, Jenny stared at her father: ‘What’s a brolly, mum?’
‘It’s a silly word for umbrella. Now, come on, Jenny, let’s try and make it to the car without getting soaked.’
‘OK, mum!’ But as Jenny went to take her umbrella, her father pushed up the catch and opened it right up wide. In the hallway. Jenny threw her hands across her face and gasped: ‘Daddy, Grandma says that will bring you bad luck!’
Mr Berry laughed: ‘I wouldn’t worry about that, Jenny. Some of the things Grandma Lily says are just plain daft!’ He stepped over to the door and held the umbrella outside so that Jenny could step underneath it. ‘Here you are,’ he said. ‘Enjoy your lunch and try not to get wet!’ Jenny’s dad was not going to town with them. He never went to town on market day. He always stayed at home to watch football on the television. He said that as soon as Wills was old enough he was going to teach him to watch football on the television too.
Jenny’s mum hurried ahead of her and held the car door open for her to get inside. She popped the wet umbrella down beside Jenny’s seat. Jenny fastened her seatbelt: ‘Mummy, you’re getting wet!’ she said. ‘Where’s your umbrella?’
‘It’s in the boot.’
Jenny knew that boot was a different sort of boot to a Wellington boot. That boot meant the back of the car. Jenny wondered why there were not enough words for everything to have a different name. It was all very confusing and poor Wills was going to have to learn so many words and names because at the moment he didn’t know any of them.
The car park was quite empty today because, although it was market day, it was raining so much that nobody wanted to be in town. Mrs Berry and Jenny got their umbrellas ready and Mrs Berry put Wills in his pushchair and pulled a big plastic cover right over the top, then they all started to walk towards the macaroni-cheese restaurant. Jenny pulled her umbrella low over her head. She really could see where she was going! Everybody else had to peer under their umbrellas to make sure they didn’t walk into each other, but Jenny could see right through her special see-through umbrella.
Grandma Lily was already waiting in the restaurant. Jenny closed her umbrella just outside the door and hurried inside to sit next to her.
‘Hello, Jenny dear,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘What a lovely umbrella!’
‘Grandma, when I’m underneath it, I can see where I’m going.’
‘Well, that’s always very useful, Jenny. Shall we help mummy with the pushchair?’
So grandma helped take the plastic cover off the pushchair and Jenny helped by watching. Then Jenny’s mum and Grandma Lily talked about the weather and Jenny sat and watched the people hurrying past the window, peering out from under their umbrellas. And not a single see-through umbrella to be seen! She looked at her umbrella against the wall. It was now standing in a puddle of water that had collected from all the raindrops. Just one umbrella’s worth of raindrops. Just imagine how big the puddle would be if all the raindrops falling outside collected together in one place. Jenny looked at her grandma: ‘Grandma, how many raindrops are there altogether?’
‘Well,’ said Grandma Lily, ‘probably a raincloud’s worth and sometimes rainclouds can be as big as the whole sky.’
‘That would make a very giant puddle, wouldn’t it?’ said Jenny.
Grandma laughed: ‘Yes it would, but we don’t have to worry about town being covered in a giant puddle because most of the rainwater runs down the drains and back to the sea. And the rest of it washes everything clean and waters all the plants. So we should be very grateful that we live in a country with rain because some countries never have rain for years and all their crops die and there’s no food for the people. And the land turns into a desert.’
‘So, really, we should feel happy about the rain,’ said Jenny.
Jenny’s mum laughed: ‘I don’t think daddy would agree with you right now. He’s worried his football match will be cancelled because of the rain.’
Jenny thought about all those football players running around getting wet. She wondered if it would be possible to play football and hold an umbrella at the same time, after all it was FOOT ball and all they needed was their feet. The waitress came and Mrs Berry ordered the food, and while Jenny was waiting for her macaroni cheese to arrive, she thought all about rain: rainclouds, raindrops, rainbows, rainwater, raindeer …
‘Grandma, why is Rudolph called a rain deer because mostly he lives in the snow?’
‘Because, Jenny, the rain in reindeer isn’t the same rain at all. It just sounds the same but it’s spelt differently. The kind of rein in reindeer is the rein that you put on horses and ponies if you want to ride them.’
‘But, why didn’t they make a word that sounded different?’
‘Perhaps they ran out of words,’ said Jenny’s mother.
‘But it’s confusing,’ complained Jenny. ‘How will Wills ever learn it all?’
Don’t you worry, Jenny,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘I think Wills is going to be a very clever brother.’
By the time lunch was over, it was not raining quite so much, but still enough for umbrellas to be necessary. The library was only five minutes’ walk from the macaroni-cheese restaurant so that gave Jenny just enough time to show Grandma Lily what an excellent umbrella her new see-through umbrella was. She did not bump into one person all the way to the library.
At the library Jenny put her umbrella in the rack with all the other dripping umbrellas and ran straight to the Children’s Section. She thought that today she might choose a book about horses and ponies. One with lots of pictures. When she had chosen the book she wanted to borrow, she handed it to Grandma Lily then hurried away to the Library Activities Centre where something special was happening – a lady dressed as a clown was organising a colouring competition. Jenny loved colouring. So Grandma Lily and Jenny’s mum went to the cafeteria to feed Wills and Jenny did some of her best colouring of children at the seaside. She was almost finished when she heard someone calling her name. She looked up to see her best friend Emily, running towards her.
‘Jenny, Jenny,’ Emily said, ‘your grandma’s buying milkshakes.’
So Jenny quickly finished her colouring, wrote her name across the top of the sheet and handed it to the clown. Then Emily pulled her over to the cafeteria where Grandma Lily, Mrs Berry, Wills, Emily’s mother and two strawberry milkshakes were waiting. While they were drinking their milkshakes, Emily showed Jenny her new diary: ‘Every day I write down what I’ve done so I’ll be able to remember when I’m old,’ explained Emily. ‘And today I’m going to write down that I met Jenny at the library.’
‘And then you’ll remember me when you’re old?’ asked Jenny.
‘But, Emily, I haven’t got a diary. How will I be able to remember you?’ Jenny looked up to see Grandma Lily watching her.
‘Jenny,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘A diary just helps you remember things in the right order. You’ll always remember Emily because she’s your best friend. You’ll probably still know each other when you’re old. I still know some of my friends from school.’
Jenny was very relieved. She didn’t ever want to forget her best friend. She watched Emily write on today’s page. Emily was not as good as Jenny at writing so some of the words didn’t look right but you could make out what they meant:
“I met Jenny at the Liberry.”
‘I don’t think that’s how you spell library,’ said Jenny. ‘The berry bit’s not right.’
‘But that’s how I spelt ‘Berry’ on your Christmas card.’
‘Yes, but it’s not the same berry as my name. Because there’s just not enough words and names to go round.’ She looked at Grandma Lily: ‘Grandma, you have to explain.’ So Grandma Lily explained.
When it was time to go home, Jenny watched Emily packing her new diary into her rucksack. She wished she had a diary too. She told Emily goodbye and see you Monday in school. It wasn’t raining on the way back to the car park and most of the big puddles had disappeared, but it was already getting dark. It got dark very early in the winter because winter days are really short.
Grandma Lily always came to tea at Jenny’s house on market days, so Jenny was allowed to drive home in Grandma Lily’s car. She hurried inside to show her father her new library book, but she found him sitting in his armchair with his arms folded and a frown on his face. Grandma Lily stepped in behind her: ‘Oh, dear, Mr Berry,’ she said, ‘did they cancel your football game?’
‘No!’ grumbled Mr Berry. ‘But the pitch was drenched and my team lost. So we’re out of the race.’
Jenny frowned: Race? Football wasn’t a race. Why don’t people ever say what they mean?
‘Oh dear,’ laughed Grandma Lily. ‘What bad luck!’
Jenny looked at her grandma and threw a hand across her mouth: ‘Grandma! It’s bad luck because daddy opened my umbrella inside the house!’
‘My goodness,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘When did he do that?’
‘Just before we went to town …’ Jenny threw her other hand across her mouth: ‘Oh, no! My umbrella! I think I left it in the library.’
Grandma Lily sighed: ‘Oh dear, Jenny. We’d better phone and see if they’ve found an umbrella.’
‘Tell the library it’s a special see-through umbrella,’ said Jenny.
So Grandma Lily wandered off to phone the library. But when she returned she told Jenny that nobody had found a see-through umbrella anywhere. Jenny sagged down into the chair beside her father. Her special see-through umbrella was LOST.
‘Bad luck,’ said Mr Berry.
‘That’s not bad luck, Mr Berry,’ said Grandma Lily. ‘That’s carelessness.’
‘But, Grandma, it wasn’t raining when we left the library. So I forgot about it.’
‘Jenny, dear, you shouldn’t only care about things when you need them, you should care about them all the time. That umbrella’s probably gone to the place where the lost things hide.’
Mr Berry looked very confused: ‘What did you say, Lily?’
‘Grandma means it’s gone to Raggedy Lyme,’ explained Jenny.
‘Where?’ said Mr Berry, looking even more confused.
‘Raggedy Lyme, Daddy!’ Jenny rolled her eyes: ‘Where the LOST things hide!’
Mr Berry looked at Grandma Lily: ‘What on Earth is Jenny talking about?’
‘Ask her nicely,’ said Grandma Lily, ‘and she’ll tell you a rhyme.’
So Jenny half-smiled and said:
‘There’s a space in a place called Raggedy Lyme,
Full of errors and terrors and wasted time,
Where your LOST things can hide, until they decide,
That you’ve earned their return from Raggedy Lyme.’
‘Do you think that’s where your umbrella is?’ said Mr Berry.
‘Perhaps,’ said Jenny.
And you think it’s hiding from you?’
Possibly,’ said Jenny.
He turned to Grandma Lily: ‘And do you think it will return?’
‘Probably,’ said Grandma Lily, looking very wise.
‘Don’t you think Jenny just left it at the library and somebody took it?’
‘Of course we don’t think that!’ snapped Grandma Lily. Then she smiled: ‘Just you wait and see, Mr Berry, just you wait and see! Now, let’s have some tea and wait for it to come back.’ So they all went to the kitchen where Mrs Berry was making a pot of tea. And they all ate banana bread, except for baby Wills, and Jenny drank lemonade and tried not to feel too miserable. After a while, Grandma Lily whispered: ‘Jenny dear, why don’t you try looking for your brolly?’
‘But where, Grandma?’
‘Well, where’s the first place you would look for it if you needed it?’
Jenny put her head to one side: ‘In the walking stick and umbrella pot.’
‘Well, if I were you, I’d start by looking there. Take daddy with you.’
So Jenny hurried into the hall with Mr Berry close behind her. And what do you think they found? In the walking stick and umbrella pot? Almost completely dry. Why, of course, it was the special see-through umbrella.
‘My Goodness, Jenny, how did it get there?’ said Mr Berry.
Jenny turned and laughed at him: ‘I don’t know, Daddy. But I think Grandma Lily does!’