The winter’s been long. I know, I know, it’s actually been milder than any winter in a long time, but it’s been long. And, yeah, yeah, when I talk about Spring, looking forward to Spring, people say, “Don’t get too excited. April will dump snow on your Spring.” Stuff like that. I’ve heard all this.
But, jeez, it really is a long winter. First day of Spring today, whoo boy. The temperature is down in the single digits. The wind’s blowing right through downtown, and I think the wind chill is below zero. There’s still snow piled in parking lots, big gray mounds of it, and gray crusts along the curbs and sidewalks near our office. Same dirty ugly color as the sky. As if pieces of the sky broke off and crusted all over the buildings and the parks and the roads around here.
Two weeks ago I met these girls at a bar. I think they were underage but they were getting away with it. Probably had fake IDs. I bought them a round and talked to them for awhile. Two of them I got their phone numbers and I was thinking of calling them this week, seeing if they wanted to go to Happy Hour tonight, celebrate Spring — finally. I called them both last weekend and both of them are down in Florida for Spring Break. “Thanks for calling! We’re having a great time here! It’s so warm!” And I’m looking outside and it’s gray and cold and the wind is rattling the windows.
I’ve been applying for jobs for next year at different papers back east, but no luck so far. But I have to get out of here. I don’t think I could stand another winter.
First day of Spring, I like to sit outside and watch the sun come up. Sometimes the sun doesn’t come up. A lot of times, really. My wife says my stubborn insistence on doing this is foolish. One year it was snowing and I was still sitting out there by the back door with my cup of coffee. I came in after I thought it was light enough the sun must be up. I had snow all through the collar of my coat and my coffee had turned into an iced coffee. I had forgotten to put a lid on it. That probably wasn’t very smart. I try to work outside a lot this day, if I can. And I watch the sun go down at the end of it.
Somebody, I think it was Jodi Nilsson, once told me I was acting like a pagan. I don’t know what’s pagan about being glad it’s Spring. The days are getting longer and you know there’s lots of work outside coming and you just feel good.
Today it was just cold. Hard wind blowing out of the north. The snow was spilling off the roof like shakings of salt. I went inside when my face got too numb. I was in town later and I heard someone say, “If I catch that damned groundhog I’m going to strangle him.” He’s probably cozy warm under all the snow.
The clouds broke at the end of the day, one of those sunsets where there’s a crack in the clouds and the sun decides to drop through right there. Like a big frame burning orange, red, sunbeams streaking out through all the breaks in it. It made it all worth it. I didn’t even notice how cold it was in the wind. I went inside and said to my wife and said, “Did you see that?” And she said, “Dinner’s getting cold.”
Jackie reminded us yesterday, it’s the first day of Spring. The weather forecast last night didn’t sound so good — wind, cold. I didn’t even mention it to Leah. It had already been a bad enough day. Her father was supposed to pick her up after school, have dinner with her, and then he didn’t. I get a call from her — she’s downtown, by the cafe, freezing in the wind. Her father remembered their date about an hour later and called, over and over. I didn’t answer at first, and then I did, even though I knew I shouldn’t. I hardly said hello and he was yelling. I held the phone away from my ear and you could hear it halfway across the room. Leah was sitting on the floor by the couch, doing her homework on the coffee table, looking up every once in awhile at the TV, even though we had the sound off. I asked her if she wanted to talk to him. Her eyes were red — I guess she had been crying in her room. She shook her head and I just hung up on him. He called a few more times and I didn’t pick it up. Ten or fifteen minutes later we heard a car screech up out front. I turned the TV volume on. Oh, here we go, I thought. But he’s not supposed to come up here. I could call the police, even though they probably wouldn’t do anything. He stayed parked outside for a long while. I peeked out through the curtains in the front room. About a half hour later I peeked again and he was gone.
So our last day of winter was not a pretty one, just like the season it’s taken.
I got up this morning and it was gray out. The sky looked like metal. I thought, Oh how sweet, it’s Spring. At least might we have a little fucking sunshine in this place?
But Leah got up not longer after and she was more cheerful than usual. I can’t read her anymore. Sometimes I think she is stressed out by all of Erik’s missed appointments, their missed times together. Sometimes I think it’s just wishful thinking. In any case, she ate a good breakfast and was smiling when I packed her off to school. That lifted me. By the time I got into the cafe and Jackie came out all smiles and said, “Happy first day of Spring!” I wasn’t even feeling sarcastic anymore. I might have even smiled.
The first day of Spring, we start to plant — filling egg cartons with dirt and humus we’ve kept indoors in the basement, so it’s not frozen. We have all kinds of seeds we’ve ordered from seed catalogs. Poring over catalogs all winter while it’s cold and windy outside, dreaming of warm sun and green shoots. We always order too many and there aren’t enough egg cartons for all of them, even though we seem to have dozens.
The kids are getting older but they still like this, night after night after school, filling the cartons and pushing in seeds. I keep waiting for the year they complain and say they don’t want to do this anymore.
We’ve just started and already the cartons are covering the tables and shelves on our glassed-in porch, and in the part of the basement we built out and covered in greenhouse panes. We won’t plant for five or six weeks yet, till frost is over. Until then the house will be a mess with egg cartons leaking compost and humus and green shoots starting to spurt out all over and water trickling onto the floor and a fear that someone will accidentally bump a heap of them when watering and we’ll have a mess of mud and dirt and dead sprouts that won’t vacuum up and half our garden will be gone.
The days get longer and we wake up. And find ourselves giddy. And happy to have our fingers in dirt, fumbling over tiny seeds that roll all over the floor and make a mess. The kitchen, where we’ve been working, smells a little putrid, that sweet compost smell. Everyone is hungry. This is a good time.