“The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Dee Dee Rainbow shed her mask. Rainbow-striped eyelashes, flowing rainbow clothes, rainbow makeup, rainbow jewelry, rainbow hair, rainbow umbrella. There was no mistaking the Rainbow Lady when she swept into view.
No fashions or fads for Dee Dee Rainbow. She asserted her originality with verve and confidence.
The middle-school teacher had a regular name, Dolores Yvonne Wardall Raible, before she morphed into a human rainbow. Gradually the color-loving Dolores became Dee Dee. Raible became Rainbow. Some official papers made the name legally hers. From then on, she was the wave of color whose carefully cultivated persona shouted, “Look at me!”
She showed up at the Seattle Folklife Festival, decked out in bright colors, carrying a rainbow wand. I figured she was one of the acts, but she just wandered around, smiling, chatting, and spreading laughter in her wake.
Dee Dee Rainbow wasn’t into satire or political statement or outrageous behavior. She was just a cloud of color who met stares with a grin. The timid and uncertain stood a little taller in her presence. She gave them permission to be themselves.
At the time I saw her, I was working as a professional storyteller. Dee Dee Rainbow became one of the characters I wove into a program about life in Seattle. That’s how I met the Rainbow Lady’s daughter.
I was performing at a house party. After the stories, a young woman introduced herself. Imagine what it was like, she said, for a teenager to see her mother leaving the house dressed like a rainbow.
The embarrassed adolescent grew into a confident young woman. She recognized her unorthodox mother had given her what just might be the best gift of all: freedom to be her authentic self, whatever that might be.
The Rainbow Lady gave that same gift to thousands of others. People stopped her in the street, flocked to her at festivals, maybe hoping a bit of the glitter would rub off on them. Maybe she could wave some rainbow dust over them that would allow them to drop their masks and be their own, glorious selves.
In July 2009 a blogger reported she had health issues and was in an assisted living home. I wonder if she brought color to the institutional halls, if she lifted the spirits around her, if she dusted tired souls with some of her irrepressible joy.
I’m grateful Dee Dee Rainbow splashed onto the canvas of my life. I don’t don rainbow colors, but I also don’t wear a mask. Maybe a little rainbow glitter dusted my soul.
Who are the Dee Dee Rainbows in your life? Who gives you permission to shed the mask and be yourself? Are you the Rainbow Lady in someone else’s life?
Cathryn Wellner, 2010
For more on Dee Dee Rainbow:
- Two young people visited her in 2008 as part of a journalism internship. Their story and photos are online.
- There’s also another good article in the online Garfield Messenger .