Songs of Our Lives: “Looks Like Rain” by the Grateful Dead

Songs of Our Lives: “Looks Like Rain” by the Grateful Dead

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There are a solid fifty to one-hundred people in the universe right now that know me only as Rayne. If asked what my real name is, they would hesitate and more than likely have no idea. And to be honest, for a lot of them, I wouldn’t know theirs either. I don’t want to assume anything, but I am fairly sure that Starchild, Moon, Sugar Mag, Soulshine, and Scarlet B., are not their birth names. Nor was I born as Rayne.

Rayne was born from an unrelenting love of the Grateful Dead tune “Looks Like Rain.” When I was about seventeen, my deadhead boyfriend burned me a disc with two tracks. The first one was the original version of “Looks Like Rain,” and the second one was my boyfriend singing it with an acoustic guitar. I had heard this tune before and had usually skipped over it. I am not a big slow-jam-love-ballad kind of gal, but this time it hit me and it hit me hard. Bob Weir was in love, and it hurt so good, and I wanted that kind of love so bad.

I grew up in a very poor town raised by very poor parents. Love was a nice idea but it was presented to me as a luxury. My parents were together because they couldn’t afford not to be. They knew it and I could feel it. I have no memory of my parents ever saying I love you, exchanging gifts with one another, or physical affection. My mother, the toughest of the two, came to their relationship very bitter and stubborn. By the time she met my father, she had six children, had watched four prior husbands die, and was discouraged by the possibility she could never be happy. I was brought up to believe it might all be shit. By the time I was introduced to the Grateful Dead, I was not only desperate for change, I needed it. I needed new role models. I needed to understand not just what love was, or could be, but what being a woman meant.

I began to look to the women in the songs as possibilities for myself. They were enigmatic, loving, and sexual. They came in all types, sizes, and had different personalities. Just looking at the Grateful Dead’s originals list, eighteen percent specifically refer to a woman. Althea, Bertha, Anne Marie, Melinda, Cherise… the list goes on. The women are righteous, memorable, specific, and important. They have wants that they reveal and if they are not satisfied they are strong enough to walk away.

Looks like rain, it feels like rain

Rayne wasn’t a woman mentioned in “Looks Like Rain,” but I had the daydream of making her my own. I didn’t want to just be another Scarlet. I wanted to be the woman Bob Weir crooned to. I wanted the lover of my life to need me. Like any girl, I wanted someone who would crave me all the time. That every time the rain fell they would think of me and how much they missed me. That they would have to brave the storm to come when they considered my absence. I wanted to be the Grateful Dead woman the Grateful Dead man dreamed about in the lyrics of his favorite tunes. I wanted to be the Grateful Dead woman the other Grateful Dead women danced with, hugged, shared stories with, trusted, and loved. I wanted the lover I had to have his landscape be empty if I wasn’t there.

For nearly ten years this setup worked for me. I liked having the Rayne identity. Unlike Jacqueline, who worked full-time at a not for profit legal backup center, had health insurance, a savings account, and watched Jeopardy at night (sometimes passing out before it even came on), Rayne was wild. Rayne was a free-spirited party animal who danced all night, drank all day, and hugged every one that passed her. She didn’t have a job. She didn’t have a phone bill. She didn’t know what a 401K was. She was in the middle of a field, eyes closed, usually twirling, laughing at the lights and shapes behind her eyelids and coercing her friends to stay out longer. Not only did she look the part, but she felt it too.

I don’t want to tie you down

I was in love with a deadhead. We connected at an afterparty for the Other Ones in 2002. We talked at length about the way the band played “Stella Blue.” He also promised me that he would never want to “fence me in” or “tie me down.” That he just “wanted to hold me.” He said yes when I asked him to run away with me. We zig-zagged across the country seeing our favorite bands, smoking pot, drinking tea and beer, dropping acid, and falling in love with one another at every show. He began to learn the real me. Not the me on lot. Not the me in the back of some dirty dive bar. But the me who loved reading Shakespeare, and the me who loved white rice with Italian dressing, and the me who cried at sad commercials. He acknowledged me as Jacqueline. When he began to love me as myself, I slowly began to feel less like the character of Rayne and more like the woman I wanted to become.

Written in the letters of your name

But then I got knocked up. Whoops. As most things in my life, it wasn’t planned. It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t anything but chaos and fear. I had to stop drinking and smoking. I had to file paperwork for maternity leave. I had to buy onesies and diapers. I knew my life as Rayne was over. I wasn’t that girl anymore. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t wild. I wasn’t reckless or selfish. I was a mother. I was Jacqueline.

The moment I knew the baby was a girl, I knew her name: Magnolia Rayne. Even in utero, she was everything delightful. She had everything I needed, and she was a freewheeling, loving, wonderful little soul. And since she would take her father’s last name, what better way to share myself with her than to give her Rayne as a middle name? I retired my hippie name to her. My past, like the song, was “written in the letters” of her name. A secret message she would carry and one day learn about.

I took her to her first Furthur show in 2010. She had just turned three. She walked the lot with her father and me. Strangers grinned at her, gave her stickers, snacks, and flowers for her hair. She danced until she fell asleep on a blanket on top of the hill overlooking the stage. Coming out of “Althea” in the second set, the band went gently into “Magnolia Mountain,” a Ryan Adams cover that both her father and I had used to rock her to sleep at night. It woke her. I picked her up and danced with her. She fell back to sleep.

Then it happened: They slipped into “Sugar Magnolia.” I had to wake her again. Getting back to back Magnolia tunes broke and healed my heart at the same second. When you go to a show, sometimes it’s your show. Sometimes they give you exactly what you went for, for exactly who you are at that moment in time. And that night was her show.

At eight she doesn’t remember it. She smiles when I tell her the story, but I know she just loves that I love it so much. She’s not there yet. But one day, I hope she is. And when she is, I’ll be ready.


Jacqueline Kirkpatrick is a MFA student at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. She has recently published in Creative Nonfiction, Thought Catalog, and Nailed. Follow her on Twitter: @thebeatenpoet or at Jacquelinekirkpatrick.com. More from this author →