Labeled a “Rain Stick,” it is a varnished section of cactus inside of which are many spoke-like slender thorns and tiny pebbles. When you tip it at an angle, a delicious pattering sound ensues as the pebbles fall from one end of its four-foot length to the other, tumbling past spoke after tiny spoke.
The tag accompanying this Rain Stick told that in Aztecs culture the males would confer using such a staff, which helped preserve order, since a person was only allowed to speak while holding it.
In fact I had used something very much like a Rain Stick the day my middle school daughters and her pals fell into an argument. I went and fetched a small broom from the closet by the back door and explained the rules.
And it worked like a charm: There was no interrupting, the pace of talk slowed way, way down, and at the end of 20 minutes the four girls had not only had their say but had wept, hugged, blown their noses, and gone to the fridge for a little snack.
Remembering this, I stopped in my tracks when I saw this gift-shop doodad. This is it! I thought. Here it was almost Father’s Day so why not give my children’s father a Rain Stick, which, as the tag pointed out, would “help make life more enjoyable, meaningful and even complete”? Anyway, wasn’t the dad in this family ALL ABOUT male-bonding activities? Didn’t he have those pals he got together with every week to play cards, inhale Scotch and highly-salted snacks, and insult each other’s moves? Couldn’t a Rain Stick elevate THEIR level of communication?
I paid the 30 bucks and took it home.
On Father’s Day itself, the kids and I had planned to take our honoree to an open-air concert performed by a bunch of people dressed like 19th century serfs. But as it turned out, actual rain was pouring like water from a busted hydrant and the concert was canceled.
Then the dad received an invite from a buddy-dad to watch the Stanley Cup finals and somehow in there the Rain Stick got forgotten.
Days later, when we at last got around to presenting it, we let him play with it a while. “It says self-realization follows,” we told him, reading from the tag.
“So… are you realizing anything yet?” we added.
“Yeah, I’m realizing you guys really blew Father’s Day,” he said.
Nothing daunted, the next time the scotch-and-sodium pals came over for bridge, I brought the Talking Stick forth to show it to them.
They looked up from their brimming fists.
Another picked it up and swung it like a bat.
Then they all looked back down at their cards.
A month later, the youngest in our family whacked it on the floor and we saw 10,000 pebbles explode like confetti all around us.
The child yelped in glee. On hearing about this later, so did his dad. We three remaining family member, females all, sighed deeply. Then, in the ceremony of resignation common to families everywhere, all five of us adjourned together to the fridge to have a little snack.