I love spring. I really do. I love the smell of wet earth and the sight of the first few robins. I love Easter, and stale Peeps and the first time we roll out the grill and make some burgers.
But I’m realizing that there are certain parts of the spring ritual that are not really designed for the elderly. Especially the elderly like me who have the kind of memory issues that make us forget the arthritis in our spines and the nerve issues in our necks.
Today was a beautiful day out here in North Central Massachusetts. It’s been a pretty dry and pretty warm March. My crocuses are open and the daffodils and tulips are poking their heads up through the straw that I put over them last November.
Today was the first day of this year when the leaves piled on my gardens were thawed enough to rake. It was the first day when the soil was unfrozen, so that I could scrape back the mud and find the emerging shoots.
This was the first day of the miraculous rebirth that comes around every year. Hurrah! Time to get out there, old Nonni! Grab that rake, sweep up all those mouldering old leaves! Find the thyme plant and the phlox and the yellowish tips of the sprouting tulips!
So out I went, with my grandkids in tow. Five year old Ellie grabbed her child’s rake. Three year old Johnny grabbed a trowel. Almost one year old Max sat happily in the grass, but it was obvious that he wanted to taste some sticks and dirt.
With one eye on the baby and one on the barely surviving stems of my two year old hazelnut trees, I started to rake. And I raked, baby, oh did I ever rake. I sang songs to keep Max distracted while I raked every old leaf off the newest flower bed. I gave simple directions to Ellie and Johnny, who were simultaneously raking, arguing and pretending to be superheroes.
The sun was shining, the birds were singing and it felt fabulous to work hard in the springtime air.
Until it didn’t.
One of the funny/not funny parts of getting older is the way my body can alert me at the exact moment when it has had enough. Like a tornado siren on a summer night, it suddenly shrieks out of nowhere, shocking me into the reality that these old bones are no longer thirty. Every tiny nerve ending reacts simultaneously, which means every muscle seizes up and every joint freezes.
I went from Happy Farmer to Sobbing Zombie in about three seconds.
OWWWWWW!!! My thumb was screaming. A blister! And all the skin came off!!!!
YOWWWWW!!!! My lower back was shooting lightning down both legs and I was bent over at a ninety degree angle. I wanted to drop the rake, but my right hand was cramped into a claw.
Why was my calf cramping? And who applied a vise to my achilles tendon?
I took a breath. And wheezed.
Turned my head to look at the kids. My neck cramped.
The next few minutes are a bit of a blur. Step, ouch! Bend, ouch! Lift 25 pound baby, ouch ouchie mcouchums!!!!
I convinced the “big kids” to come inside with the promise of a cookie. Do. Not. Judge.
I am very happy to report that today is a rainy day.
There is no reason for Nonni to drag herself out there and scoop up the mountains of moldy leaves. Today is a day for the heating pad, the ice pack and the play pen.
Spring is a time of wonder and joy. It is flowers and baby birds and rainbows.
It’s also a time to check the mirror and look at the wrinkles before getting carried away in the garden.