We are in the best time of the year.
No, it’s true.
I know, there are still pockets of snow behind the shed and muddy shoe prints have become a regular thing at the front door. But this — this muddy, damp, windy season — is the best time of the year ... because we are on the cusp of spring.
It’s been a long time coming, and some thought Mother Nature might even skip a season, but that makes this all the more exciting and gratifying. We are collectively waiting for a sneeze that is about to come and put us out of our misery.
When Dustin and I lived in San Diego, we didn’t experience this anticipation for spring. Every day was spring. The temperatures hovered in the mid-70s all year long, and we only got rain a handful of times (always when my brother was visiting).
That much good weather is oddly stressful. There’s too much pressure to be “making the most of it” every single day. I remember sitting inside our small apartment (the one with rent that was more than our first mortgage) and hoping for dark clouds. Maybe some wind bending the palm trees back and forth. A good downpour, the kind that makes a roaring sound on the roof.
These things seldom came. Instead, sun beams bounced on perpetually lush landscaping — even in January — and staying inside felt sinful.
We never were on the verge of anything. We never had to say goodbye to one season and get ready for another. We never experienced a loss, so there weren’t any gains. It was one endless spring, and eventually, I didn’t even see the sun and palm trees anymore. They just were there.
My first New England winter and spring, however, were quite unforgettable. I thought the snow would never melt. I asked my neighbors, “Where will all the water go? What happens when this wall of snow melts?”
I had forgotten what the flowerbeds looked like underneath. I couldn’t remember if our street had curbs. Everything was buried and forgotten. I hadn’t stood in our front yard, except to shovel the walkway, in nearly four months.
Then one day, I noticed that the snow was melting along the foundation of the house and around the base of our trees. There were rings of wet, mashed-down grass around everything warm or living.
A few days later, I heard songbirds outside my window. Their chirping was hopeful and inviting, unlike the lonely echoes of the crows’ morning calls. I came downstairs and noticed that the sun was hitting the backyard in a slightly different way. There were dots of blue among the gray clouds. The sun was playing peek-a-boo.
And then, about a week later, the boys called me outside. “There are flowers in the snow,” they said.
In our side yard, next to the downspout coming from the gutter, a clump of purple crocuses was poking through the melting snow.
Spring was coming.
In the years since, I’ve learned to anticipate these signals of spring’s return. Sometimes, they are what get me through the winter. I think of the kids’ voices screaming outside as they run up and down the sidewalk. I think of neighbors sitting on their front steps to make the most of the returning sun. And I think of the robins that always make a nest outside our kitchen window once all the snow is gone.
I watch for the day when our dog, Sparky, spends most of his afternoon lying in the sun on the back deck. I look for the green tips of hostas poking through the dirt in the front yard. I am grateful for the first evening we eat dinner and it’s still light enough for the boys to go outside and play afterward.
Things like the first bud on the crepe myrtles and dandelions growing in the cracks of the driveway are reminders that the earth has not forgotten us during the winter.
We celebrate because we’ve had to live without the sun and the spring for several months, but also because we know that the hostas and flowers will retreat into the ground again come November.
The spring and summer are fleeting, and we want to be outside. It’s not a burden or an obligation; it’s an opportunity. Sure, there are many reasons to be annoyed with spring: allergies, mud, winter cleanup, and, yes, those dandelions coming through the driveway. (We’ll complain about any weather, now won’t we?)
I choose to focus on the hope and anticipation that spring brings. It’s a signal, a metaphor. And it’s nice to have something to look forward to.
Sarah Smiley is a Navy spouse and the author of “Shore Leave,” a nationally syndicated column.