Growing up in Louisa – Early Spring?
Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn
Is spring in the air, yet? I remember the adage from my youth that March comes in like a lion but goes out like a lamb. I know it rang true many times when I was growing up, if not nearly always. After that, the April showers came (remember the song?) and then May flowers. SPRING! I don’t know about you, but this year I am ready. Cabin fever, cold feet, runny noses, and coughs go away! Ah, for some warm air.
I remember some lazy spring days when the sun was so warm on my face and felt so good. Yes, even my very soul seemed to thaw. Sometimes I’d lay halfway up Town Hill and watch the cute little town between my feet. In the sunshine I would feel the burn of the sun’s bright rays as they hit my face. Of course there was still a chill in the air, but when the wind died down the sun would do its work to bring that comforting warmth missed during the long, cold winter.
Now is the time for those early blooms like crocus, daffodils, and jonquils to do their thing. I remember that pear trees were early flowering trees and whole hillsides would come alive with their white flowers. It would be several weeks before dogwood and the pink flowering almond would follow. After that Rhododendrons, and azaleas would come alive. It is still a little early for these events, but they are not far away, I promise. If we just look at the green sprouts of day lilies and daffodils, we will see that promise fulfilled as nature slowly begins this year’s symphony of colors.
Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good, I guess. The women in my house had an innate drive that I could not be expected to understand. To them, spring meant it was a time for me to hide whatever I wanted to keep, because ‘spring cleaning’ would take everything that wasn’t nailed down or put into special storage somewhere. The consequence of being tardy in this regard may explain where my Babe Ruth baseball card went. I had some tobacco cards, too, but they’re long gone. If I didn’t hide myself, I’d be trapped into washing windows, sweeping, and even having to pick up my clothes from the floor and all about. Even throwing them in the foot of the closet didn’t work! Things had to be put away. One of my tricks was to put everything into the washing. That would teach them. Winter’s dust and cinders had no chance. The house was to sparkle in spite of its age and condition. I think they were careful to not divulge that part of their method was to insure more time with us out of the house. It worked.
With the promise of a fresh new season life somehow seemed to go well. People were more congenial and satisfied, displaying actual smiles, or grinning mysteriously. They were actually civil to one another. With the gradual warming we instinctively knew to look forward to the Easter parades, where the beautiful young girls broke out their fine lace, and wore their pastel, or flowery dresses, and their shiny new patent leather shoes. They looked like perfect dolls dressed up for a play. New hair dos and matching ribbons abounded as little princesses danced like little fairies. Why, even the boys were open to taking a bath and wearing something a little dressier. Imagine that.
For me spring was about the first sounds of a ball striking my catcher’s mitt, or the crack of a ball hitting a wooden bat echoing across the field. It was the season’s promise of summer fun to follow. Now is too early to think about swimming, but tossing a baseball with your best friends would fill the bill and work out winter’s kinks. Early spring is deceitful though, often sending buckets of rain to make the fields too soggy to use. I remember looking forlornly at standing water covering the infield. It was saturated and too soft to allow even a lightweight kid like me to traverse without leaving deep footprints. Being resourceful, we’d find a place where we could throw the ball back and forth. Tossing the ball allowed us boys to dream of the good times that were only weeks away. After all, the majors were already having spring training in parts of the Deep South. Catchers and pitchers were to report in February as I remember.
Youth baseball teams were holding tryouts about this time of year and the boys would line up in hopes of being noticed by the coaches. Of course, the cheerleaders weren’t far away. As if to stay in shape they were going through jumps, splits, and cheers. I noticed that they always faced the field so the guys were in clear sight, but then again, so were the girls. I was nearly hit by a pitched ball once when my attention was miss-focused.
Maybe the girls would be at Dee’s after school? I remember that after some ballgames or an evening event, half of our class would be there. On weekends some would have their dad’s car and would crank down the windows, turn up the music, and load it up with friends. It was finally warm enough to be outside where you could see and be seen. Cars were put to good use on weekends when couples set up double-dates. With luck they could get permission to go up to Ironton to take in a drive-in movie, or then again maybe they’d have to stay in town and hang out at Dee’s. As darkness set in there might be opportunity for a short trip to the little hill above the fairgrounds in high bottom, or maybe across the river at Wallbridge to the old vacated railroad tunnel. I’ve been told that such things happened, at least according to rumor. I don’t remember who that might have been, but love was very much in the air.
In school it was a time that we could crack open a window and feel the fresh air that would fill the room. The breeze would drive away the odor of those oily floors and the musty wooden steps. The walk from building to building in high school was less likely to be rushed. A slow, lazy walk would now suffice. There was little wind or cold to punish us so it was a time for groups of friends to pause and pass a greeting. It was a time to see that special guy or gal, or maybe take notice of someone that looked a little more ‘grown up’ than they had last fall. I remember gaggles of girls giggling, and guys romping and playing, perhaps to show off in front of the fairer ones. There were couples who seemed to snuggle a little closer when walking to their respective classes. New couples held hands while the boys carried the books and opened the doors for their newly found sweetheart.
It is the season, after all, for those emotions to rise, newly primed by Valentine’s Day. Those feelings, or urges, had been relatively well-policed with the help of winter’s cold, but the hormones would soon enough rush in the unsuspecting bodies of boys and girls too young to understand the cause. Yes, love was in the air. Cupid was hard at work shooting arrows wherever they might. The poor victims were starry-eyed and in a state of bliss. Picture two young heads leaning together, a sigh and a blush, to tell the story. Everyone would know at a glance. It was altogether right that flowers should bloom at this time of year.
Even though days were getting a little longer, we still kept our sweaters and jackets at hand. Just one cloud could remind you that winter still had a grasp. A single puff of wind could steal the warmth and serenity only just enjoyed. It’s not that time just yet, but it grows near. Anticipation is justified by those little pockets of good weather between the cold fronts. It is time you might kick back a little, but keep the blanket nearby, my friends. I know in February this year we have experienced samples of both winter, spring, and a day or two of summer. I think for many readers it has been a long winter with all kinds of storms, flooding, wind, with bits of sunshine to tease us. The cure for cabin fever is but a few weeks ahead.