False Spring

“What’s False Spring?” Violet asked, sitting down between her brother and the sweatered scout.

“Anyone who’s not a cakesniffer knows what False Spring is, “ Carmelita said in a scornful voice. “It’s when the weather gets unusually warm before getting very cold again. We celebrate it with a fancy dance where we spin around and around the Spring Pole…. When the dance is over we chose the best Snow Scout and crown her False Spring Queen. This time it’s me. In fact, it’s always me.”

From The Slippery Slope, by Lemony Snicket

We had a little false spring of our own the past few days, although it did not involve dancing around a Spring Pole or crowning a spoiled girl False Spring Queen. Highs reached the 70s on Wednesday and Thursday and then on Friday the temperature reached a record-breaking 77 degrees. The big dirty piles of snow at the edges of parking lots are shrinking and crocuses are popping up here and there. It’s enough to make you think spring might be around the corner, even though today has been cooler, with highs in the 50s, and by Tuesday, it might even snow again.

The other notable thing about those three oddly warm days was that Beth was out of town, conducting a training in New Jersey. By Friday I was pretty worn out from the solo parenting, despite having had an almost unprecedented six-hour chunk of kid-free time on Thursday when the Cottontail Rabbit invited June over for a morning play date that ended with her mother taking them both to school. I ran some errands (library and post office), got myself a cheese and egg sandwich and a caramel macchiato at Starbucks, caught up on newsletter clipping for Sara, exercised and read a few Flannery O’Connor short stories (I am making my way, slowly, through her Complete Stories) but when it was over I was surprised at how fast it went and how little I had to show for the time. The solitude was nice, though, even if the stress of getting Noah to finish his literary devices poster that evening nearly wiped out any inner peace I may have gained from it.

Friday was quite different. There was no kid-free time because it was my day to co-op at June’s school. On Thursday night, I wrote what we needed to take with us first on the trip to Noah’s bus stop and then on the trip to June’s school on the whiteboard on our refrigerator: “I. Noah’s backpack w/ lunch + POSTER! II. June’s backpack + SNACK! + COFFEE! If you read this blog regularly, you know I don’t use capital letters and exclamation points with abandon, but I certainly didn’t want to forget the poster, and I was the snack parent at June’s school and I didn’t think I was getting through the day without some caffeine.

I successfully got the kids out the door by 8:20 for the second day running. Unlike Thursday when June was skipping and running ahead of us, so excited about her play date she was unable to walk (Noah and I were also slowed down by his heavy percussion kit we were taking turns pulling along), June lagged behind us. She was actually sulking from an argument with Noah, but I don’t want to go into that. Nevertheless, we arrived at his bus stop by 8:50 and then she and I headed over to the community center to wait for her drama class to start at 9:30. I’d brought along some books to read and crayons and paper for her. She drew a princess and a dragon on one piece of paper and a snake on the other. I snuck in a few pages of the Post while she drew.

In drama class the teacher read them A Birthday for Frances and they made some props and acted out the birthday scene from it. They also practiced their dance routine to “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins. When it was over we walked back home, pausing to admire some purple crocuses on the college campus near our house, had lunch and headed back out to go to school. About halfway to school, June removed her Cookie Monster sweatshirt to reveal the t-shirt underneath and then skipped the rest of the way to school with the sun on her bare arms.

I was continuously occupied from our arrival at 11:45 to about 1:15, escorting kids from their cars, through the parking lot and up to the porch and then preparing the snack of whole-wheat mini-bagels with cream cheese and strawberry jam and carrot sticks and cleaning up from it. Then I played with the kids who had finished their handwriting practice, mostly watching them make letters with straight and curved pieces of wood designed for this purpose and reading to them, for about a pleasant half hour until it was time for the second group to go into music class. I went in with them.

Becky, the music teacher, had opened a door that leads from the music room to the porch so a breeze came in through the screen door. The warm air seemed to drive the kids a little crazy and they had trouble concentrating on the lesson. “When will we go outside?” one of them wanted to know. Usually the kids really like music and I’ve never heard any of them say that before.

By 2:20, they were out on the playground ten minutes early and everyone was running around. Everyone was a little wilder than usual, but the defining moment of the outside playtime came early when June came running to me with her hand on her knee and crying loudly. There was an outraged quality to her crying so I thought when she calmed down she would have an accusation to make against one of her classmates. I sat on a tree stump holding her and waiting for her to quiet down. Other parents often comment to me about how fast June bounces back from injuries at school (it’s not always that way at home) so I was surprised at how long the crying went on. I suggested we go inside and remove her skirt and tights so I could see if she was bleeding.

Once we’d done this I could see what was wrong and why it wasn’t getting better. There was a big splinter stuck in her right knee. I carried June to Lesley, who was speaking to a classroom observer, and interrupted their conversation. Lesley took June over to the sink, washed her knee with soap and water and suggested I get Andrea from the playground. Now with Lesley needing to get back to the observer and one co-oper on housekeeping duty inside and one teacher about to come inside, that left only one co-oper out on the playground with fifteen energetic four and five year olds. That meant I needed to replace Andrea on the playground and leave June. I hated to do it and felt as if I was abandoning her.

It seemed like a long time before Andrea came back out (I had time to remind children that we don’t throw sand at our friends and we certainly don’t throw rocks at them) and when she did, she didn’t have June with her. She reported that she couldn’t get the splinter out because June was too upset and Andrea was afraid June was gong to hyperventilate. I’d have to get her dressed and try it myself at home. I wasn’t looking forward to that, as Beth is the designated splinter mommy, but I came in and helped June get back into her clothes. Andrea had put a Band Aid on the wound and given June a cold pack to numb the pain. Soon she was running around on the playground again as if she did not have a big hunk of wood stuck in her flesh.

June was in good spirits on the walk home. She wanted to pretend to be a mother chicken and baby chick, so I had to cluck and flap my wings for much of the way home. She had her nap and I was just waking her when Noah came home, so she listened to me read to him and then they watched television. Dinner was take-out pizza. When we’d finished eating it was time to tackle the splinter.

Lesley had suggested a warm bath might help loosen it, and had actually given June the impression it might just float out on its own, so she spent the first five minutes or so of her bath staring at her knee, waiting for the splinter to float out. I gently tried to break the news to her that if it didn’t come out in the bath, I would have to try to get it out. She didn’t like this idea, but once she was tired of playing in the bath I lifted her up to the bathroom counter and patted her knee dry. I brushed my finger lightly across the splinter to see if it was still protruding. I thought it was, though it was hard to tell what with the squirming and the screaming.

“I need you to be brave,” I told June, as I got out the tweezers.

“No!” she yelled.

Well, I tried. I thought I almost had it a few times, but she was trying to push my hands away and her tears were falling directly on my hands as I worked and finally I just gave up. I didn’t feel good about it, though, because I was worried that the wound would close overnight with the splinter inside it.

We watched a couple episodes of Angelina Ballerina until it was bedtime, and then as the kids were in the bathroom brushing their teeth, I heard the front door open. Beth was home! June started to tell her about the splinter almost at once, and so it was that after a four and a half hour drive, practically the first thing Beth had to do was to pluck a splinter from June’s knee as I held her hands down and June wailed in protest. It took a few tries, but she got the damn thing out. I was elated and June was pretty happy, too, once she stopped sniffling.

Later Beth and I talked in bed a long time, about her trip and my co-oping adventures and the honor roll certificate Noah received for getting all As and Bs in the second quarter and everything she’d missed during those three long, strange, unseasonable days she’d been gone. I’ll miss the spring-like weather, but having her back is more than an even swap.