The streets in our neighborhood are so covered with tree sap, they sound like gravel under the car tires. "What's that sound?" Hannah asked recently.
"I don't know," I said, grimacing. I thought for a minute that snowplows had visited overnight and spread sand on the streets, a belated April Fool's prank.
But the next morning I walked the dog and heard the same squerch-squerch underfoot, and I knew:
Spring is here. And at least at our house, it's never been so welcome.
We like winter well enough, but winter is a claustrophobic season. Boarded up against the elements, hunkered down with flannel and fleece, proximity can be both a comfort and a curse.
By mid-February, I began longing to see my kids' kneecaps again, craved barefoot walks to fetch the paper. I missed the sight of bikes and scooters, the splash of puddles, the joy of heading outside to burn off some energy. I loved our fireplace but wanted a campfire. Frankly, we all needed space.
And just when we thought winter would last forever, the pear trees bloomed. Tulips and irises rose from the dirt.
We sifted through piles of spring clothes for our annual wardrobe inventory and discovered again that nothing fit. Children, like daffodils, stretch and grow even when you're not watching.
My first child, my girl, was born in the winter, and I joked that I only saw her during baths and diaper changes. She spent her first months bundled head to toe, her fuzzy head covered with hats, her toes tucked into full-length sleepers. Our drafty old house and the relentless north wind conspired to keep us self-contained, if not separate.
But oh, that first spring! I remember peeling off layers down to her onesie, lying Hannah on a blanket in the yard and watching her chubby legs pump up and down in the sunshine. Unfettered at last.
Now every spring harkens back to that one, my first as a mother. I think about new life, new adventures, sunshine and second chances.
I look for ways to teach my kids about nature. We make "bracelets" by sticking dandelions and seed pods to double-sided tape. We feed the birds. We stalk squirrels with our cameras. We plant flowers. We breathe deeply.
Just this week a friend delivered ringneck snakes in a bucket of dirt. We held them and watched them wriggle — 9-year-old Jack much braver than I — before releasing them at a nearby creek.
Spring means sunshine and outstretched arms, gentle breezes, room to roam. Days are longer. Life is good.
And once again, I'm as sappy as the trees.