Its Spring. The first official day was Sunday, March 20th but there are plenty of other signs. The azaleas, redbuds, and dogwoods are blooming. The first hummingbirds are back at my feeder. And the Masters golf tournament begins Thursday, April 7th.
On the downside, I am cleaning up the lawn mower in anticipation of mowing season. We are continually wiping the layer of pollen that covers every surface on our screen porch. And we are packing boxes in preparation for moving day.
Another sign is that the Dougherty County school system is on Spring break the week of April 4th. It is our final school spring break before my wife retires. Since she works in the school system, we have always built our year of travel around the various school breaks—fall, Christmas, spring, and summer. It seems a generous amount of time off except when you consider we have only been able to travel whenever the rest of the world is traveling. Airports are packed. Attractions are full. And don’t even get me started on the highways.
Spring break has always been a welcome respite for us. In the past, we have spent spring breaks at the beach but in recent years, we have travelled to visit family in the North Carolina mountains or in Louisville, Kentucky. But all of that is about to change. As retirees, we are expecting every day to be a weekend, and every weekend to be a “break”. Spring break will be a time NOT to travel.
I don’t often praise Yankees and how they do things up north. But one thing they have over us is how they celebrate spring. They have no choice. It is sudden, it’s dramatic, and it’s over in a few weeks.
We lived in South Dakota and Northern Ohio for a dozen years and believe me, those folks know how to celebrate spring. When we lived up there, winter meant a set of snow tires on the car and a survival kit with thermal blanket, candles, matches, and food in the trunk. Snow shovels, snow blowers, and bags of ice-melting salt stood at the ready. Our wardrobe included long underwear; caps, hats, and earmuffs; heavy socks, snow boots, and ice skates; and coats, parkas, and scarves. The parks near our house flooded flat areas and turned them into outdoor ice-skating rinks from November till March. You can only do that when it doesn’t get much above freezing, even on the warmest of days.
So in the North, after four or five months of bitter cold days, frigid nights, and snow-covered ground, the need to get outdoors seemed almost pathological. The grass seemed especially green, the flowers remarkably bright, and the air refreshingly crisp. On a Northern Spring weekend, we spread blankets on lush park grounds, planted flowers around the house, and packed the neighborhood swimming pools. Just being outside was a luxury, especially without a coat, mittens or snow boots. The air was no longer hazardous to our health. Mowing grass was a pleasure not a chore.
Spring in the South is less abrupt. It is more like a gentle shift from mostly chilly to mostly mild. It is a time for dinner on the screen porch, a drive in the car with the sunroof open, and sleeping with the bedroom windows open. Soon, it will be too hot for any of these.
This spring, however, feels a little different to me. While it is great to have the mask off and enjoy seeing people’s smiles, it somehow feels like crisis times are not over. COVID variants are still popping up, the political climate is more fractured than ever, and the war in Ukraine grinds cruelly on.
But springtime is a season of hope and rebirth, so I am going to look forward to what it has to offer. I’m going to make the best of it. Maybe I’ll attend Chehaw’s Party for the Planet or the Flint RiverQuarium’s Wild Affair. Perhaps I should take a class at the Albany Museum of Art or just relax at Pretoria Fields on their trivia night. And as for Spring Break, I won’t be worried about crowded airports or clogged highways. Until we make the move this summer, I have two yards to mow, two mortgages to pay, and endless boxes to pack.