“What?!” I find myself whispering, “The maple trees are suddenly tipped with red buds? Really??!!! Is spring really coming?!”
I am always astonished. The snow is still there, clinging with its filthy icy fingers to the edges of the drive. The nights still make me shiver. How can there be buds on the trees?
A few weeks pass, and the snow finally recedes, the last dirty nuggets of frozen slush disappearing into the dirt. The peepers come out, singing their songs of longing and renewal as dusk falls over the wetlands.
Lilac buds swell, the grass grows green again. The phlox begin to open, and the lily-of-the-valley unfurl their tender stalks to soak up the light of May.
But none of these signs of spring can convince me that winter has finally gone. None of them shows me that life is truly re-emerging from its dormant state.
I am a fifth grade teacher. I am immune to the calling of the Phoebe on her nest. I do not respond to the lovely colors of the tulips or the tender scent of the hibiscus.
For me, spring only proves her existence when my students return from fifteen minutes of outdoor play, and I am surrounded by the suffocating odor of an NBA locker room.
For me, the sounds of spring are not the trilling songs of the peepers, but rather the whispered sounds of “I like him, but I don’t LIKE him like him!”
Spring in the fifth grade is captured by the poignant dance of “You can’t fire me; I quit!” where the most insecure students suddenly push away their new- found friends. It is felt in the moments when the children simultaneously push me away and cling to me as if I am the only buoy in a turbulent sea.
Spring: the time of year when life rushes forward, whether we are ready or not. The peepers call, the buds swell, the children find themselves confused by love and longing. Time marches forward with a suddenly ominous drum beat. Every minute takes us closer to the end of our time together.
Spring time in the fifth grade. A sweetly gentle mix of sadness, excitement, and relief. A tender mix of looking forward and looking back.