25 March 2013

we wait for spring

Upstairs from me, a sweet retired couple lives, and on March 1, the man, Hal, declared to me: "My winter ends today."

We were standing outside, having met on the sidewalk—me coming in from my morning walk with the little pug, and he heading out to his volunteer position as the crossing guard for the local elementary school.

The first time Hal told me that he was a crossing guard, I wanted to ask him if he got to wear the reflective belt—the one that loops over your shoulder and then wraps around your waist. I remember that from my crossing guard days at Grimes Elementary, and I also remember always getting it twisted, which rather limited its reflective abilities.

I didn't ask him that but assumed he was the lucky guy who gets to hold up the stop sign and wave at the cars as they drive by.

On March 1, Hal, on his way to be a crossing guard, had on a stocking cap, wool mittens, and a parka, and yet he declared to me: "My winter ends today."

He went on to explain, "See, Kamiah, I say every year that winter is over on March 1, even if it doesn't really happen until later in the month. But I like to believe that spring comes earlier, so I just say that winter is over."

He's told me that several times since then, and I can tell he tells a lot of people that. It gets him a laugh, and there is a practiced patter to how he says it. "So I just say that winter is over," he always concludes, and then he laughs, a quick ha-ha, at his own joke, as he zips up his parka.

I find these kinds of conversations comforting in their predictability. When it comes down to it, we all have something to say about the weather, and the very fact that on March 25, I woke up to flurries is indeed something to comment on.

The sky is falling, and we are all waiting for spring. Real spring, I mean, not the kind that comes just on the calendar or when an old man declares he's had enough of this Midwestern cold and gray.

I hope I see Hal tonight on my walk with little pug. I want to tell him that this morning, I saw a crocus pushing up through the earth, dotted with snow, but there all the same. Winter is ending. It really is.

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