Two weeks ago a friend predicted it. He said he knew. Last snow! This is it. Ohio is now ready for spring. Chidings on Facebook ridiculed his smug assertion, but we all secretly hoped he was right. We were ready for it, restless for it. Like a kid who anxiously waits for the last day of school, I awoke each morning for the past two weeks hoping to feel the warmth of spring so I could free my toes from the jail sentence of winter boots they had endured for the last 5 months. I looked forward to sleeping with my old style crank windows turned out, breathing in the cool dewy morning air and and having the peter-peter-peter-peter of the tufted titmouse pull me from my slumber. But still, it lingers.
I looked out my window a few moments ago and saw white stuff floating to the ground. It is a gentle snow, a quiet snow, with some big flakes mixed in with smaller ones. The kind of snow you wish for on a January evening with food warming in a crockpot, allowing you to revel in the spirit of hygge, as they do in Denmark. But it’s not January. It’s March. It’s day four of spring for us in the Northern Hemisphere. I planted peas in the ground not more than 24 hours ago. My hygge has been spent one hundred times over. I am ready for spring.
When I was 6, we moved from the only house I had ever known. After all the boxes were packed and loaded in the moving truck, after all the furniture was gone, except the big pieces the movers were coming for, I walked slowly through each room. “Goodbye, bedroom”, I cheerfully shouted in my parent’s room. Next the kitchen, then bathroom, dining room, and family room, I committed each room to memory and said my farewells. When you are young you don’t think such a thing is silly. But by the time I got to my bedroom, I can’t say my voice held a cheery tone. I was worried I would forget the rooms, what they looked like, what they smelled like and what had happened in each one. I said an earnest goodbye to my room, my favorite room, then paused, waiting for the room to return my farewells, but only heard the flat sting of my voice bounce off its bare walls. What makes one melancholy at such a young age? As my father pulled out of the driveway for the last time, I made a promise to the house that I would return. And I fully believed the house took solace in knowing that I would.
It’s been years since I’ve driven past that house, although my father still lives just a couple miles away. I grew out of believing that houses would miss me like I missed them and I never returned. The neighborhood was Silver Meadows, a name that was a memoriam to what was once there and a reflection of the shiny future that each family who moved in must have hoped for in the early 1970s. “Oh you mean Silver Ghettos?” a mean boy said during recess when I told him where I once lived, years later. My memories of backyard barbeques, new white sidewalks, and bouncing in my parent’s huge bed were tarnished forever. My heart wanted the house to be well, to not know that people mocked it with cruel language.
The mind wants closure. It wants an opportunity to say goodbye. If you knew you were about to do something, something that you loved, for the last time, what would you do differently? Looking back at my rituals of youth, I often wish I had a crystal ball so I could be aware that I was embarking on a beloved activity for the last time. On Friday and Saturday nights we would go dancing at clubs – the names still so vivid – Mean Mister Mustard’s, Red Zone, Mecca, Hot Peppers, Alrosa Villa, Millenium – with standard regularity every weekend for years. The frequency, like ocean waves after a storm, decreases gradually, and then, after several years, you suddenly can’t remember the last time you went. You think of going and then catch yourself, realizing how silly it would be for someone your age to go to such a club. Without noticing it, that phase of your life has ended, never to return. Oh sure, you might go one night if you get a wild hair, but the authenticity is gone forever. You are there as a poser, a fake, an outsider to a world you no longer belong to.
I recently caught the tail-end of an NPR Fresh Air interview with Maurice Sendak, the children’s author and atheist. Near the end of the interview, he talks about his fear of isolation, as many friends have recently passed away and the fact that he still does not believe in an afterlife. “As I’m aging, I find that I am in love with the world”. ..It is a blessing to find the time, to read the books, to listen to the music….There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.” Maurice died a few short months after this interview.
So tonight, in the spirit of love that Maurice had for this world, I will say goodbye to winter, because I am ready to say goodbye, as so many of us are – until next season. The seasons, like the languages of many Native Americans, don’t know a word for goodbye, but only “See you later.” The promise of each season is a return. Tonight, I will take one last nighttime walk surrounded in whiteness and illuminated by the sliver of a moon that will guide me through the last snow. And I will listen for winter’s farewell.