Spring Is Sprung

“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz…”

New Hampshire has had a string of unseasonably warm days that reminds us that spring is only a few days away.  I love winter and am always happy to see the skies fill with grey cotton clouds that dust the bare pavement with downy flakes of white, but by the middle of March I look forward to the days when the ice melts and the earth turns warm and fragrant.  In this part of the country, spring is heralded by the lemon splash of forsythia against muted winter lawns and leafless trees, fat robins searching for worms, and warm breezes that tease my attention from my office and lure me to languish in the sun’s strengthening rays.

Spring- it is the season of promise; a season of buds and baby animals and tiny sprigs of new grass that pop up amid the winter hay.  Everything is fresh and new, and yet, there is a continuity from year to year- like the same song sung with a different beat.

When I was a girl one of the most exciting sign of spring was when I was allowed to play outside wearing shoes instead of boots.  My feet felt light without the bulk of heavy buckled boots and I relished the sound of gravel crackling beneath the leather soles of my saddle shoes. During the early spring when I was very young, I was made to wear rubbers- brown or red overshoes.  They were shorter and lighter than boots, but still added weight and bulk.  To be finally free of boots and rubbers meant I was free indeed.

With the advent of spring came the changes in wardrobe- sweaters instead of heavy coats, cotton dresses instead of wool skirts, anklets instead of knee socks.  With the lengthening days came lighter colors and jubilant patterns.  My sister Robin and I would sit together on the couch with the spring issue of the Sears catalogue and dream about the Easter dresses and white shoes that filled the pages.  The mothers and daughters in the catalogue all wore pastel dresses and light weight coats that coordinated with their hats.  I ached to wear those clothes- to look like the models in all their finery.  However, new Easter outfits were not usually on the agenda in my house.

“You go to church to honor God,” my practical Yankee mother would remind me.  “Not to show off new clothes.”

It was logic that was difficult to argue.

The signs of spring bring memories of playing with spring toys outside the house at 30 Green Street.  Sometime around the middle of March, my mother would visit Thorin’s Hardware Store and bring home a bag filled with paddle balls, jump ropes, and balsa wood gliders.  These were inexpensive toys that lasted only as long as the spring vacation, but they lured us away from the television and books that kept us sedentary during the weeks that were too dark and cold to play outside.  My brothers and sisters and I would hold competitions on the driveway- drawing hopscotch with chalk, or seeing who could skip “peppers” without tangling the jump rope between their feet.  We counted aloud as we bounced the pink rubber ball against a wooden paddle.  We ran to St. Patrick’s church and back, trailing kites behind us, trying in vain to get them to fly.  And at the end of the day when the shadows of the setting sun stole the golden warmth and left shuddering cold in its place, we snuck a daring barefooted run across the icy back yard before our mother caught us.
“Child!” she would yell from the kitchen, “You’ll catch your death of cold!”

But her lips would curl into a small smile, as if she remembered.

When my children were young, they celebrated spring’s arrival much the way my siblings and I did.  I packed away their winter clothing and searched the stores for new spring outfits, while I reminded them that we go to church to honor God, not to show off new clothes.  I bought them sidewalk chalk and kites, and taught them the same jump rope chants I learned as a child.  And although balsa wood gave way to Styrofoam, we still found gliders to swoop across the sky on a gentle March breeze.  They delighted in the lightness of their feet without boots, and every once in awhile, when they thought I wasn’t looking, they removed their shoes and stole a barefoot run across the cold sidewalk outside our front door.

Now that my children are grown, there is no one to celebrate the warming breezes and lengthening days.  I walk across the driveway to work and notice the gravel crunching under my heels, and when I close my eyes, I can imagine a glider doing loop-de-loops across the azure sky.  

I dream of the day when, I have grandchildren.  Although their parents will insist that they go to church to honor God and not show off new clothes, I will sew them new Easter clothing.  I will buy them kites and jump ropes and teach them to play hopscotch.    And when they think I’m not looking, I’ll watch them steal a barefoot run across the cold yard.

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