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    The First Breath of Spring*



*originally submitted to the On A Prairie Home Companion Spring poem/lyric contest in March 2007.

Their faces are pressed against the cold glass and an elbow is pressed into service to wipe away the inevitable fog. They’re huddled together against the cold as early morning sunlight streams into their questing eyes, causing a sneeze or two, quickly stifled lest someone in authority deems those sneezes the warning shots of an advancing cold.

Mom’s outside now, and they’re watching her daily dash for the paper. All winter long it’s been out and in again, quicker than quick. Some days so cold her breath still shows itself for a moment or two upon re-entry. Papa asks her time and again why she doesn’t put a coat on over her robe and boots on her feet instead of those “Spangly Christmas slippers”.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she says, shaking off the snow, or sleet whichever the precipitation of the day, “I’m not going to get all done up just to walk out and grab the News.”

Besides, think the minds behind those noses frozen to the windowpanes, how else would she know what her kids were gonna need to wear that day? Each morning’s “commute” ends with the verdict of what the day’s weather will hold.

“My, it is brisk outside!” Means it’s a blustery day and “You’re wearing ear muffs and a hat, and there’s no two ways about it.”

“Snow is in the air.” Means there’s going to be at least 5 inches on the ground before dark and they’ll be wearing snow pants and boots to school, cringing at each step they take, swish-clumping down the halls.

“I can’t believe we’re going to get rain this late in the season, probably will turn to ice after lunch though.” Is a sure sign they’ll not only be lugging an umbrella along with their school gear and layers upon layers of protective clothing, but that the power will probably be out by the time they step off the bus, never early enough to close school.

Mom was always right about the weather; she only watched the weather on TV to document what they predicted against what she “knew”. She was right 100% of the time; they were only up to about 50-55% accuracy in her book.

She once made the local cable access weather guy cry when she called the station read him the riot act for being wrong about the previous day’s ice storm, “…causing countless school children to risk their lives by facing elements unprotected”.

The most dreaded statement upon her return was, “Tsk, too cold to snow today, and that wind’ll cut right through you!” That meant all bets were off, and their standing in the social hierarchy of Johnnycake Elementary was falling faster than the barometer.

“No, no, No! It’s at least 20 below what with the wind out there, you’ll wear your long underwear, I don’t care if they do itch and don’t say heck, and here’s your corduroys, your warmest turtleneck, hmmm, and this orange and green sweater Aunt Mavis knit you last Christmas…and this, and this, and…” as she piles on the warm clothing they try to protest, but that battle was lost before it even began, “Don’t forget your gloves, I don’t care if you can’t bend your fingers in them, you want to lose those fingers to frostbite and have nothing to bend at all?”

Now they watch her as they have every day since the calendar changed from February 28 to March 1, it can’t be long now. Winter was fun, at first. But they’ve had enough fun to last until next winter, or at least until the hottest days of summer, something of a dream in their minds right now.

So now they’re watching her walk to the end of the drive, squinting through the sunlight, is it harsh or gentle? No telling which it is until Mom comes back inside from her daily run.

Never call it that to her face; she works hard to maintain a certain dignity in that daily ritual not ever running or even jogging to the end of the drive, although some days it’s obvious on her face she longs to break into a run to get back into the warmth as quickly as humanly possible.

 “Put a gosh-darned coat on.” Grumbles Papa in his ineffective way while warming her freezing fingers in his large rough hands.

“If it’s good enough for Janet to wear her robe & slippers to get the paper then it’s good enough for me.” Declares Mom. Far be it for Mom to one up her best friend and neighbor of 30 odd years. End of discussion.

They see she’s got the paper in her hand, and maybe it’s over active imaginations but they swear she just paused, yes! She has paused and appears to be taking a deep breath before turning to walk at a dignified, almost leisurely pace back to the house, pausing once again to scrutinize a seemingly bare patch of earth near the stoop. The sunlight does seem gentler now, almost warm and inviting, not harsh and cold as they’d feared it would be.

Tearing themselves away so as not to appear they’ve been watching, although the nose prints on the glass will surely give them away, they run to the breakfast table where their oatmeal has cooled and congealed into brown rubbery masses. Mom enters the house as they pretend to enjoy this inedible repast. Then all pretenses aside, the world stops, waiting for the phrase they’re longing to hear.

Mom smiles at them, and shivering, she says, “It’s a cold one out there,” they wait holding their collective breath, how could she be so cruel to tease them so? She’s got a grin to beat all grins, she knew they were watching and waiting. “But Spring is in the air.” They breathe in relief, then in whoops of joy. “Saw an iris or two poking their heads out by the stoop. Should be up to oh, about 30 or 40 by afternoon.”

Spring. It is here. Winter is over. Oh there are still chances of freezing cold days, snow, and long underwear between now and jacket and sweater weather but it is here. Finally, finally, finally here.

“Don’t forget your gloves. And for Pete’s sake, wear a hat will ya?”

The End

Copyright © 2006- Teresa Rothman