The calendar says that last weekend was the official start of spring, but those of us who live in what is often called the “snow belt” of Ohio know that we can’t trust that the end of winter has arrived. However, last weekend offered us a glimpse of what we hope lies ahead in the next few months.
This was the first warm weekend, and I found myself strolling throughout the neighborhood with my daughter, enjoying the nice weather and the few flowers that were peaking out of the soil, sometimes next to the last remnants of snow. My daughter noticed some deer passing though the area, and I enjoyed the walk, realizing that I had not been on a walk for its own sake since I broke my leg over a year ago. No wonder it felt so good!
The neighborhood children were out again, including one who was born in late December who was taking her first trip around the neighborhood in her stroller. Of course, we all stopped to say hello to the precious baby as she napped, being pushed around like a little princess.
With the children were the dogs. I remember that when my daughter was very little, she would stand at the end of our driveway and say hello to each dog as it passed by on its evening walk, greeting each by name. That was the first time we realized that she is particularly good at remembering names, of people, as well as of dogs.
One of the afternoons, I took my daughter and a little boy from the neighborhood to a local park that is actually a working farm. I was amused at the conversation between them as we drove there, and even started to wonder if there might be more to the idea of a natural difference between boys and girls than I like to believe. While he told her of all the new trading cards he was planning to acquire, she agreed with him, although I knew full well that she had no idea who the cartoon characters he was talking about were. Meanwhile, she asked him what he was learning in school, and it was clear that he was learning some different things than she is, since they are in different grades. I had to laugh at how different their perceptions of and priorities in life were at this young age.
At the farm, we saw many baby animals that had been born in the past few weeks. I recall one mother goat with a newborn baby who was so small it could escape from the pen that held the mother. This left the mother stuck and unable to bring the baby back, something that obviously upset her. The mother goat stood in the pen and cried a cry that was a mixture of a “bah” and a “honk” until a worker at the farm fetched the baby and returned it to the mother, knowing full well that the baby would escape again in only a few minutes. As I watched my fellow mother fret about her baby running away, I couldn’t help but remember the frightening experience of losing track of my own daughter amidst the racks of clothes in a department store. If I could have gotten away with honking, I think it would have been a good way to express myself at that time!
I intervened in a baseball game when it became clear that the trajectory of the ball headed straight towards my car, and then stood back to watch the children hit balls and run bases, with my daughter easily keeping up with the little boys, in both batting skill and ability to get dirty. I mentioned to one neighbor that I did not grow up in a neighborhood, and I wished I had.
All was not perfect this amazing weekend, though. One family was stricken by a flu bug, and two of their children, who struggle with asthma, came down with pneumonia. To my daughter’s dismay, they could not come out to play. Their parents say that the children are almost all better, and will be able to join the fun soon.
While those children are well on the way to getting better, I could not help but remember a visit I made as a child with my family to put flowers in an old Italian cemetery where some of my ancestors are buried. As I marveled at the intricately carved memorials, my father pointed out to me that many of those stones had dates on them from 1918. It seems that, without antibiotics, the flu of that year was not so easy to overcome, and many died. That memory made me give my daughter an extra tight hug good-night later that day. These days, so beautiful and life-giving, are also very fragile. I plan on savoring them as they unfold.