I have no recollection of my birthday the year I turned three, but compared to my memories of the weeks that followed, it was either unmemorable, or it fell as a casualty in the preparation process for Dam Days. I will never know.
However, I do know that two years earlier, on my first birthday, our little village was decimated by yet, another massive flood. Flooding was a regular event in our village, but that particular flood, coming on the eve of the Fourth of July, garnered enough attention that it became the catalyst for flood prevention. Where they wrangled the money for it, I never knew, but two years later, we celebrated the completion a pair of small dams in a big way - at least it was for a village of a thousand people - with Dam Days.
Before Dam Days, my memories are hazy, patchy, pieces of mental photos, pieced together with a dreamlike glue. Once the preparations began, my memories come together like a Pixar 3-D movie, complete with a soundtrack of exotic music, colors so vivid they seem to vibrate, and for some reason, men, women and children all hula dancing. Mix that with miles of bright crepe paper, the faint scent of hay, and a float for me to ride on while throwing candy to the crowds and it was a three-year-old’s dream come true!
That is, until the parade began. It was planned to kick off the festival but just as it began, the skies opened up, sending a deluge into the valley. It was as if Poseidon himself was personally offended and had decided to test the strength of the dams that we had erected. The moment that the first drop of water touched that crepe paper, the colors began melting like ice cream on a scalding summer day. Those bright, tropical hues swirled into a murky, soup of ugliness, ruining my costume, the floats, and worst of all, dissolving the crowds which ended the parade.
I can still see my hands, streaked with a muddle of ruined colors trying to shelter the candy basket as it was filling with crepe-paper-polluted water. I can still feel my chest heaving with sobs as someone pulled me off the float, rushing me to shelter that I did not want. I can still recall the festival being abandoned to the endless sheets of falling water. I still remember the pain I felt, having to abandon all that beautiful candy. Somewhere between the torrents of rain and nightfall, exhaustion took me. The rain continued driven by freakishly strong winds, throughout the duration of the festival.
Monday morning dawned clear and cloudless, all the traces of the ruined festival washed away. Though the villagers never said so, I think that they took it as an omen, for we never celebrated Dam Days again.