Archive for Thursday, March 18, 2004

Bits and Pieces

Spring rains bring back flood of memories

March 18, 2004

I always know when it's getting to be spring. I wake up with a dull ache in the back of my neck, which is the signal that the humidity has arrived.
The earth is waking up as the days get warmer and longer, and the sun is thawing out the ground, making those huge potholes you sink into while driving. They jar you to the core and make your teeth chatter, to say nothing of your car's alignment.
My pear tree in the front yard is budding out, and as I gaze out the window I see the abandoned bird's nest I just couldn't destroy last year when the robins left without a word. The winds of March will surely get it now.
I took my first bicycle ride early last week, all bundled up in sweatshirt and scarf. It felt good to be outside after this real Kansas winter we have just experienced. The wind was very strong, but if you could manage the hills when going against it, it was wonderful being pushed along with it at your back.
My grandson Gabe accompanied me on my ride. We didn't talk much, as breathing got to be an issue on some of the hills. We went looking for Nick Becker (Gabe's buddy) at his grandmother JoAnn's house, but he wasn't there. It's fun to see people again and catch up on the news. I believe in retrospect that this has been a very long winter.
These early signs of spring remind me of growing up living next to my grandmother at 928 Topeka Ave. in Emporia. My mom's siblings always referred to their home as "928," and so it lingers on in my mind as well.
Gramma started her gardening early, in February, when the seed and flower catalogs arrived. Always anxious to flee the drudgery of housework, she looked forward to working even harder in her garden. To her, it was sheer delight.
I often accompanied her on trips to the greenhouse to pick out plants with strange, exotic names she was fond of using. The greenhouses always smelled of damp earth and new life.
I remember once when Gramma secretly ordered a particular iris that cost $40 per bulb. This was in the 1950s, so you can imagine the outright furor it would have caused if Grandpa had known. Gramma saved up her Social Security money and usually spent it on flowers instead of the medication she should have had.
I often thought her flowers probably did her more good than the medication anyway. Her garden was a showplace, and she was often on the garden tour. My job was to keep the sidewalks swept clean and to pick up all the small sticks that dropped from the oak tree after a rain.
Sometimes I just goofed off, particularly if a rain was blowing in as it does in the spring on great, huge purple-and-black clouds. I used to notice how the grass turned a particular shade of deep green right before a storm, and I would drop to my knees and put my face in it to see if it was the same ordinary grass I was used to.
Sometimes I wandered around in the rain when it finally came, singing "April Showers" at the top of my lungs. I knew every show tune from the movies I attended Sunday afternoon at the sumptuous Granada theatre.
If a storm was particularly bad, I would be hurried off to Gramma's cave, which she had my grandfather, Fred, build for just this purpose. She was in a "cyclone" (as she called it) as a child growing up on the farm in Olpe and was terribly frightened of tornadoes. Armed with candles, we fled to the cave, which always smelled of the potatoes kept there in a special bin and sprinkled with lime as a preservative. Onions also hung in bunches from the top of the cave. The candles blazed while we waited out the fury of the storm overhead.
There was usually a bit of storytelling to keep our minds off what was going on outside, but I was always glad to escape when the storm was over.
Often the rain in the spring would catch me unaware as I bicycled home from school. On my fifth birthday, I was delighted to receive a used girl's bike, all spruced up by my grandfather. The ride home on gravel roads with the rain in my face was not fun. Nor was the wind that often threatened to blow me over. I used to say a little prayer asking God to harness the wind at least until I got home.
In the spring when I was in first grade, my friend Glory and I were chosen to be "angels" for First Communion. This meant we were chosen to lead the first communicants into the church for their big day. We fought over what color our dresses were to be: She wanted the peach, and I wanted the aqua blue.
We were a real pair when the day arrived. She had jumped off the teeter- totter with me on the other end, and I landed on my ankle. The day of First Communion, I was limping on a badly sprained ankle, and she was coming down with the chickenpox. But there we were in the photo with huge hair bows of the same color as our dresses and looking angelic, if a little puny.
I have lots more stories of spring, which I will share with you later, but for now I hope you can get out today and enjoy the fresh air and the sun on your face. Maybe you can even visit with a neighbor you haven't seen all winter.
Don't forget to see whether your tulip bulbs are coming up and whether your trees are budding out. It feels so good. The winter is over, and Easter is just around the corner.

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