Today I saw something I haven’t seen in months. It kind of surprised me, really, when I first noticed it. The kind of surprise you feel when you unexpectedly meet an old friend in the milk aisle at the grocery store who’d left town years ago—you recognize their face, it just takes your brain a moment to process why they are standing in front of the eggs. But, nevertheless, there it was. For the first time since October, as my children were grasping their tooth brushes and polishing their pearly whites in preparation for bedtime, I saw it—dirt beneath their fingernails. This can only mean one thing…Spring is here.
Spring has always been my favorite season. It’s the most optimistic of all of them. Each bud growing on the branches and every tulip stalk popping up from the recently frozen ground bring with them a promise that something better is coming. Something greener, something brighter, something warmer. The renewal of the earth is present in every direction and we can only hope that Old Man Winter notices it too. With any luck, he will see the leaves beginning to form on the trees again and say, “Well, I guess my job is done here. I’ll see you in November.”
It’s not only the return of green that gets me excited about these three months in the calendar. It’s the anticipation of the rain showers that are a necessary component of the return of life to the great outdoors. There is no better mood music than the sound of a soft rain tapping on the roof. If it includes the percussion of a distant clap of thunder, well that’s all the better. I’ll even take nature’s light show that comes along with the spring thunderstorms, with its jagged streaks of radiant white slicing through the sky at dusk and disappearing soon after, only to pop up again in another section of the heavens. There are few things better than relaxing on the front porch after a long day, feet propped up on the patio furniture, serenaded by nature’s chorus.
As a parent, there is an added bonus to the return of spring. For months, I’ve stuffed my children’s backpacks full of snow pants and snow boots, hats and gloves. It’s a skill similar to the organizing of a dishwasher—it takes loads of practice, but once you get the hang of it, you’d be amazed at how many items can fit if placed in their correct positions. All of those hours spent playing Tetris as a kid have finally paid off. But before you can pack it, you have to locate it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been in hot pursuit of a missing mitten during the crucial minutes of a weekday morning. One rogue glove can throw off your entire schedule and ruin your ability to drop your minions off in your pajama pants. One morning in January I spent ten minutes searching for a pink fuzzy hand warmer, and another two minutes putting on “real clothes” because, due to our tardiness, I had to physically walk my late kids into the school as opposed to dropping them off in the car line.
And speaking of the drop off line, I noticed another sign of spring this morning as I pulled up to the elementary school. The wonderful women who open our van doors and pluck our children out of their booster seats and send them on their way into their classrooms were no longer bundled up in their winter gear. In place of boots, I saw shoes. In place of scarves, I saw necks. And the smiles that are ever present on their faces (even during the coldest of mornings) were a little bit wider and a little bit brighter. More so than the parents in our heated Suburbans with the seat warmers on and the windows rolled up, these ladies deserve spring.
So back to those dirty fingernails, evidence of an evening spent playing in the yard without the protection of outerwear, I’m glad they’ve returned. My kids need to run around in the fresh air and exhale out all of those germs and flu bugs that have lingered around our house all winter long. I’ll gladly replace runny noses with extra baths. They need to stretch their legs and yell their lungs out. They need batting practice and relay races, soccer scrimmages and Kick-the-Can rematches. And I need to be able to tell them to go outside and play after dinner without the fifteen minutes of preparation that winter requires.
It’s the return of the season of puddle jumping and mushroom hunting, and I couldn’t be happier to open up the windows and let the fresh air ruffle the curtains. I even relented to my son’s request to wear shorts to school this morning. Heck, I even pulled my flip-flops out of the closet to wear to drop off. It’s going to be in the 60s today in the Midwest…might as well be beach weather to those of us emerging from hibernation.