The Rainbow Lady’s Legacy

“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

Photo of Dee Dee Rainbow from Life As Art's photostream on Flick

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 .
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7 comments for “The Rainbow Lady’s Legacy

  1. November 14, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I loved this article. I loved Dee Dee so much and was so thrilled when she used to visit us after we moved from Seattle at the Long Beach Peninsula and am always so pleased to see (via my “stats”) people looking at photos of her on my blog.

  2. November 15, 2013 at 9:15 am

    As her grandkid, I can assure you that she brought plenty of rainbow and light to her assisted living home; how else might it have been?

  3. December 29, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I’ve been neglecting this blog while working on another, This Gives Me Hope so apologize for not seeing your two wonderful comments until today (the notification system has failed me). It was so many years ago that Dee Dee Rainbow first amazed and delighted me. She brought so much joy with her.

  4. Terri Benson
    January 3, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Dee Dee was made of joy and she shared it with her family and friends…and with the world. I am so very glad she was in my life! I miss her terribly.

  5. January 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    She was one of a kind and left a legacy of exuberance, kindness and fun. People were changed by her.

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