12:31:43 am on
Friday 20 Apr 2018

A Leaky Roof
AJ Robinson

Usually, when someone speaks of a leaky roof, it’s a problem. The last thing any homeowner ever wants to hear from a contractor is, “You’ve got leaks. You need a new roof or at least some repairs.”


Leaky roofs are happy memories.

Yeah, not the sort of thing anyone likes. Yet, for me, there are happy memories of leaks in our roof.

The leaky roof I remember was in our cottage in the Campgrounds of Oak Bluffs, specifically the playroom. It was a small square room right off of the kitchen; it had one of those half doors; a Dutch door. My mom could close the lower half, leaving the upper open and thus keep an eye on me when I was a toddler.

The room also featured a flat roof, which was major awesome. We used to use it as our lookout post, our observation platform and anything else that popped into our heads during our games. The flat aspect was what worked against us in times of foul weather.

During the summer, the island of Martha’s Vineyard had few storms, which was double cool when you’re a kid. When it did rain, though, we often got frog-strangling downpours. Sometimes, I could slip outside and run in the puddles, but not if there was lightning. Then my mom pulled rank and insisted I stay inside.

Moms can be such “Killjoys,” can’t they?

Anyway, the stronger the storm, the more trouble we had with the playroom roof. Inevitably, it would start to leak. Then it was time to get the buckets.

Dealing with a leak, in the playroom roof, was often like an old-fashioned fire brigade. The little drip-drips would start coming down from the ceiling from multiple locations. Mom would break out the old aluminum pots and we’d position them on the floor.

Depending on the strength and severity of the storm, the drips could become almost a waterfall of flow. We’d have to stand guard over the pots, watch for when they’d get close to full and then it was time for the old switcher-roo.


Not a single drop would hit the floor.

Mom would grab the pot. I’d get a fresh one. Then she’d pull hers away as I slid mine into position.

Mom would dump the water down the sink. Then we had to keep watch as the rain continued to fall. As the playroom had lots of toys and games, we’d always find something to do; mom was especially good at comforting me if the thunder and lightning got just a little too intense.

I tried as hard as possible to act brave and commanding. If I wanted to maintain my standing in the community, even as a small boy, I could not show fear in the face of death simply. Mom was exceptionally good at seeing right through me.

Looking back, as she had experience with four other boys, it was little wonder she knew when I was scared out of my gourd! She’d tell me stories about Italy, about growing up in the Tuscany countryside and, of course, telling me how she and my dad met. The sounds of the storm would dim into the background until all I heard was her voice, all I saw were the images she was painting in my mind; I found comfort in everything we shared.


May we all be so fortunate.

Yeah, I know, tending to a leaky roof during a storm is not the sort of thing most people would think of as fun. For me, all I have to hear is the gentle patter of rain on a roof; it carries me back to yet another fond memory from my youth.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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