Rites of Spring

Spring has now unwrapped the flow’rs,
Day is fast reviving,
Life in all her growing pow’rs,
To’rds the light is striving.
Gone the iron touch of cold,
Winter time and frost time
Seedlings working through the mould,
Now wake up for lost time.

From “The Flower Carol,” Folk Song

April Fools Day
No one played any April Fools jokes on me this year but the representative from Washington Gas might have thought I was playing one on him when I called to report a gas leak in our basement that turned out to be…nothing.

Thursday morning I was putting a load of laundry in the dryer when it wouldn’t start. A half hour later I was back in the basement when I thought I smelled a faint odor of gas near the dryer. I called the emergency line and took June out to play in the yard while we waited for someone to come check out the situation. We had to wait about an hour and while I was sitting and watching June collect the tiny white wildflowers in the yard, I noticed the grass was starting to get long so I decided to give the lawn its first mowing of the year. I got the front and side yards done and pruned the butterfly bush, which suffered a lot snapped branches when it was buried under three feet of snow back in February.

Around noon I proposed a picnic lunch to June and right around then the service rep showed up. I took him down to the basement. As we approached the dryer I noticed the smell was completely gone. He turned on his meter, which detected nothing. He checked all around the basement and found nothing. Then he left and though he was very professional and told me to call again if I smelled gas again, I couldn’t help feeling a little foolish.

I should mention a peculiar thing about myself here. I sometimes smell things that aren’t there. It happened most often in my late twenties and it was usually pleasant smells like baking cookies. It still happens occasionally but not often and since the dryer was broken and I was under the impression it was a gas dryer (turns out it’s electric) it seemed logical and it never occurred to me it might be one of my olfactory hallucinations.

June was still excited about the picnic so I went through with it. I made a pitcher of lemonade (“the bestest lemonade in the world” June told me), laid a beach towel out on the lawn and we ate vegetarian salami, American cheese, saltines and sliced strawberries amid the damp clothes hanging on the drying rack and draped over the slide, the soccer net and our lawn furniture.

There were errands I’d planned for that morning that didn’t get done but I did get an hour and a half outside on a warm, sunny day, a half-mowed lawn and two loads of laundry with that incomparable dried-outside smell. Maybe I wasn’t so foolish after all.

Good Friday
“Is the beach talking to you?” Beth asked me. We had just gotten back into the car after a pit stop at for lunch at the Taco Bell near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

“Yes,” I answered.

“”What is it saying?” she wanted to know.

“Why on earth did you take that job?” I said. We were headed to Rehoboth for weekend getaway in the middle of Noah’s week and a half long spring break, but I would need to spend a few hours of it at the computer working on an article for Sara about an enzyme derived from fermented soybeans that has cardiovascular benefits. I’d hoped to have it mostly finished before we left, but due to the cats keeping me up half the night howling one night and only being able to find a sitter for one morning when I hoped for two, I’d only gotten about a third of the way through it and Sara needed my draft by Monday.

We arrived at our hotel around 4:00. There was a hold up getting into our room, but by 4:45 the kids and I were on the beach making sand castles. June preferred to decorate hers with shells while Noah elected to tunnel under his until they collapsed. He has loved doing this for years, ever since he learned it was an authentic medieval siege technique.

The last time we came to the beach in April it was so cold the kids wore their winter coats, but it was sunny and almost 70 degrees and we were all in bare feet. The warm sand felt good under my feet. Even the shocking little frisson of the frigid water felt good, too, as I fetched bucket after bucket full of water for the kids. I almost never feel so alive and present in my body as I do at the beach.

After a visit to Candy Kitchen (Noah got gummy teeth; June got a foot-shaped lollipop—what’s up with the body parts, kids?) and a pizza dinner, we bathed the kids and put them to bed. I slipped down to the hotel lounge for a half hour’s work on the article and then the sea called me and I answered.

A fog had fallen and the wind was whipping it around the beach in tatters. The air was cold and wet. Even in corduroys and a fleece jacket I was soon chilled and my hair hung damp around my face. I watched the waves crash over the remains of someone else’s sand castle and then I walked back to the hotel, thrilled and joyful.

It was a Good Friday indeed.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite
We saw the Easter Bunny on Rehoboth Avenue after breakfast on Saturday, or rather a person in an Easter Bunny costume, as June was careful to correct me when I said, “Look! It’s the Easter Bunny.” Much to my surprise, she went right up to the Bunny and selected a Starburst from the basket of candy and even posed for a picture with the big rodent.

Beth took the kids to play miniature golf while I holed up in the room and worked. In the afternoon, after June’s nap, we took June’s new Barbie kite to the beach. Yes, you read that right. One of June’s friends gave it to her for her birthday. The picture on it could be worse—it’s just her head, but still… Barbie has breached the perimeter.

The morning had been cold and foggy so we’d put off the kite-flying expedition until afternoon, hoping the fog would burn off, but it didn’t. Still, Beth got the job done, getting the kite into the air. I never thought I’d see Beth flying a Barbie kite on the beach, but now I have. The amusement factor made it almost worth owning a Barbie kite. Almost.

The kids awoke Easter Sunday to find the Bunny had left two chocolate bunnies (milk chocolate for June and white chocolate for Noah) on the bedside table in the hotel room. It was a down payment on the candy they’d find in their baskets once we got home.

The day was warm and sunny. June and I played for hours on the beach and took a long walk down the boardwalk. She tested my hypothesis that no matter how many buckets of water I carried to her she could not make a puddle that would stay. She rode the car on the boardwalk with the clown that used to scare her. She made multiple attempts to talk me into another visit to Candy Kitchen, each as if the previous conversation had never taken place. She admired the “eagles,” as she calls them.

I could tell when church let out because all of a sudden the beach and boardwalk filled up with little girls in fancy dresses and boys in polo shirts and khakis or madras shorts. All the people in their finery gave the scene a festive feel. It was the kind of day when cold weather was such a recent memory and warmer weather seemed so imminent, that we saw people in everything from winter coats to bikinis. The sartorial diversity was a truly glorious thing.

We left Rehoboth after a boardwalk lunch and drove home. The first hour of the ride was pleasantly quiet. June was sleeping and Noah was reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. We met up with YaYa and Aunt Carole in Silver Spring. They’ve come for a brief visit to see the cherry blossoms. We ate on the patio at Eggspectations (http://www.eggspectations.com/usa/index.html). They kept getting our orders wrong, but we made do with what we got and when they comped us a free dessert and brought the wrong one, it was just too funny to be annoying. (I did make them bring the right one, though, because it was a slice of Smith Island cake—http://www.smithislandbakingco.com/– a Maryland tradition I’ve heard of but never sampled and which I’d spied in the dessert case when we arrived.)

We all came back to the house to dye Easter eggs and eat Easter candy. YaYa and Carole talked about how they loved the simplicity of dyeing eggs and discussed plans to make their own dye from onion skins one year. They left for their hotel before we applied the stickers with eyes, noses and mouths and taped little hats to the tops of our now not so simple colored eggs.

We got the kids bathed and in bed. Beth fell asleep in her clothes on the bed before I got June settled down. It had been an eventful weekend.

Loveliest of Trees, The Cherry Now
I love the cherry blossoms, enough to go every year despite the hassles, and there are hassles no matter how you go. Parking is hard to come by, the shuttles from the remote parking lots are not particularly convenient and going by Metro adds a lot of time to an already long trip. We decided on Metro this year but it was clear from our discussion of logistics that morning that there was no way we could get home by noon, which is the latest I like to get June home from a morning outing.

We left the house at 8:15 drove to Silver Spring and met YaYa and Carole at their hotel. From there we walked to Starbucks, picked up some snacks and boarded the Metro. It was already 10:15 when we arrived at the Tidal Basin. June was complaining she was tired before we even arrived. We’ve been stroller-free for about two months (the big storm that left sidewalks impassable for weeks was the impetus) and on some days it’s been harder than others. I had a feeling this was going to be one of those days. I told Beth I didn’t think we were going to make it all the way around the perimeter. We rested and ate for ten minutes or so by the water before we starting walking. We set a goal of reaching the FDR memorial, which was slightly less than half way around.

Noah had a map and pretended to be a tour guide as he read to us about the points of interest we passed along the way. June kept stopping to collect petals from the ground. When YaYa and Carole planned their trip, the peak blooming period was supposed to extend into this week, but warm weather caused the blossoms to open early and we’d missed the peak. More than half the blossoms were already off the trees, but it was still lovely. It’s always lovely. We admired the Jefferson Memorial across the water and posed by the stone lantern. As we approached the FDR memorial, it was eleven and June was really dragging. We didn’t go through the whole thing because it was so late, but the kids enjoyed seeing the waterfalls.

On the way back I picked June up and carried her every time we got significantly behind the others. I would carry her until we caught up and then I’d put her down again. We proceeded this way, with June whining, “I want my nap!” over and over again until Beth made threats against her Easter candy if she continued. She continued to whimper from time to time, but she didn’t say the word nap again after that. As we passed the Department of Agriculture, we saw a landscaping crew digging up some tulips that hadn’t even finished blooming yet. Who knows why? The way they are constantly changing the plantings down on the mall is irritatingly wasteful. Anyway, the gardener must have thought the same thing because he offered a bunch of tulips (with two bulbs still attached) to June. June ran to show them to Beth, arriving before I could with the explanation and Beth gasped, thinking (naturally) that June had yanked them out of the ground. We carried them home to put it water and I will try planting the two bulbs in the yard. We have crocuses, daffodils, hyacinth, irises and tiger lilies but no tulips, so it was a fortuitous gift.

Our first train was delayed for ten or fifteen minutes by a sick passenger on another train ahead of us on the track so it was a relief to finally get moving and to transfer to the second train, where we could sit down and rest our weary feet. I was positive June would fall asleep on the train and ruin her nap but some how she stayed awake not only on both trains but in the car, too, though it was a close thing. In fact, when Beth asked me if she was asleep and I said no, June insisted that she was and she didn’t seem to be playing a game.

We got home at 1:15 and June dawdled over lunch so it was nearly two by the time she fell asleep. She then slept for almost two hours. I was intending to lie down for just a little while and then get up and work but I fell asleep and slept for almost a half hour. Spring can be exhilarating, but it’s also exhausting.