Oh To Be a Child in Spring                       

It pleased me when winter finally gave way to spring and children came out to play. As daytime temperatures responded to an insistent sun, young bicyclists, wearing smiles, swarmed outdoors and turned my neighborhood into a colony of happy bees.

Two sisters pedaled along the sidewalk: both in dresses with bows in their hair, both on bicycles with the shine of Christmas presents, and both singing in clear young voices. Joel and I, discussing the green shoots battling winter’s silt in our flowerbeds, stopped talking and listened. Riding together, singing together, the young cyclists echoed happiness back to us.

Then three pre-adolescent boys hooted derisively when a fourth, the last to try, attempted to jump his bicycle onto our curb and nearly toppled. Shrugging his shoulders, the youngster laughed, accepted their judgment, then pedaled after them ready to try again.

A helmeted child, relying on the security of training wheels, rode ahead of his bicycling parents and, in response to their forceful and repeated demands, stopped at the corner. When I caught his eye, he gave me a shy wave and a grin, clearly communicating, “Look at me; I’m riding a bike!”

In addition to the bicyclists, I watched teenagers down the block, a boy and his older sister, playing a hoopless basketball game in the street and following their own rules. They dribbled aggressively, guarded illegally and made fun of one another. Laughing, bumping, yelling “No fair” and stopping only when a car invaded their court, they played all day.

In the afternoon, I walked by Breeze Park where newly installed playground equipment of many colors and tiers hosted children of all ages who swung, climbed, crawled and slid on its interconnected pieces. Some inhabited the playhouse where they filled their pretend play with intense conversations and indignant corrections of one another’s behavior.

Toddlers, plopped down to play in the soft fill below the equipment, and older children competed to be first to swing their bodies across long stretches of overhead bars. Those too young to have cars and too sophisticated to play on the equipment, gathered to sit on picnic tables and exhibit teenage behaviors. Parents watched, encouraged, coaxed and caught as dogs chased frisbees across the newly greened grass in the background.

When I was a child playing the first softball game of spring in our pasture, I got into a shouting match with my brother Bob about whether my foot had been on the base when I tagged him at first: an argument I was bound to lose. Finally, giving up, I told him he was stupid, smelled like a barnyard, and I wasn’t playing his dumb game. Then I stormed into the house, slamming the screen door behind me.

After a few minutes, Bob yelled it was my turn to bat. Face saved by this peace offering, I returned to the game. But I didn’t escape retribution: As I picked up the bat, he added, “You didn’t have to be such a big bawl baby, though.” This time, I quietly accepted his words because he was right; it was a nature-bursting day; and I couldn’t stay angry.

Children know how to welcome spring.

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56 thoughts on “Oh To Be a Child in Spring                       

  1. So true – you brought back so many memories. Some from my childhood and some from earlier this year. Every now and then, I turn to come down our street and see kids playing street hockey. I wave and drive around the block so they don’t have to move the net. I remember the adults who used to support our play. I guess they were paying it forward. Great post, Janet.

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    • I’m glad you have both experienced and supported the outdoor play of children, Dan. Every year when children emerge outdoors after one of our harsh windows, the area where I live feels like a neighborhood again.

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  2. Lovely post Janet- indeed, kids do still play outside- I recall shucking the gumboots for runners, mud season, the warm day I curried our ponies matted out winter coat, next day it snowed and the poor thing shivered. Mrs Bentley, elderly art teacher who drank, her only lessons were “Spring Pictures”, all year round, perhaps Mrs Bentely’s perpetual spring was a wisdom..Thank you.

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    • I think Mrs. Bentley did possess a wisdom, Sheila, one that, with luck, she passed along to Godfrey so I can read his take on it. It makes me feel young again when I watch children cavort in the spring. Now that our park has been upgraded, I’ll get to observe it more often. I especially enjoy the serious play that goes on in the play house. The players get upset when someone doesn’t stick to his or her assigned role and fails to exhibit proper behaviors.

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      • Indeed, Janet, I to have seen very young kids working things out together, without adults input. Mrs Bentley had us memorize poems, which I can still recite- If you can see Mike’s dragon link under his comment, I’ll get it for you, he is very shy about praise, bit o’ Godfrey in the chap- Cheers.

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      • I did find and see the Youtube of Mike reading Looking for Dinosaurs. I thought it was delightful and told him so. I once memorized Little Orphan Annie and got extra credit because of its length and my fine delivery.

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  3. Hi Aunt Beulah
    I think of the lyrics to What a Wonderful World when I read this story. The seasons always bring a shift in lifestyle as they come and go. You have opened up your windows and doors to let the sunshine in just as we are closing ours and rugging up for winter. Still the children play, the beauty of childhood is the adults adjust the lifestyle to accomodate the season, the children play on regardless.
    But as a child I sensed that Springtime led to Summertime and playtime was a lot more fun
    You know how when you really want something to happen fast
    Example; jug to boil….day off work…scones to cook so you can smother them in butter while they are hot and savour every bite
    Well you fall into this category
    Your stories just don’t come round fast enough for me Aunt Beulah, thankyou for another delightful story, another trip down memory lane, and putting a smile on my face for the day ahead.
    Hugs wrapped in sunshine headed your way for the Spring
    From
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

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    • That is one of the nicest compliments I’ve received on my writing, Annie; and you expressed it so wonderfully. I also like your thought that while we adults adjust our behavior, “the children play on regardless.” That’s what’s so wonderful about watching them at play. It has an eternal feel to it. And hugs headed your way, dear Annie, to keep you warm as you settle into the more quiet, cozy comforts of winter — like tea and scones.

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    • Oh, yes, Diane, the dreaded bawl baby and tattle tale with which the seven of us labeled one another. I think tattle tale was the worst insult, and often a cause for retribution, because it implied betrayal. I wrote this post to remind myself and others that children still enjoy outdoor play.

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    • Rob, I assumed you would be checking your tackle box twice and smiling in anticipation of the fishing to come. But then, perhaps spring runoff muddies the streams so that your happy season is summer. I’m about 2/3 through your wonderful book, Rocky Mountain Pastels. I’m reading slowly and savoring.

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      • I don’t know who Don is, but I hope he has good credit. 🙂
        I don’t know if I’m healthy enough to do these hikes; each time I go, it’s iffy if I can make it back out. I explored a little canyon yesterday. It was a place I’d always wondered about. It was tough, and at one point I didn’t think I would make it back. But I did. The left fork trail head opens today. I’m trying to decide if I can get in there.

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      • I’m not sure who Don is either, just someone my flying fingers decided to address I suppose. I edited the comment so it now reads Rob, and I hope Don forgives me. I’m glad you’re getting out there, but please choose places where you’re sure you’ll make it back out!

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      • Ha. The places choose me more times than not. I do listen to my head and my body, though. Yesterday I made it into the left fork all the way to where my ashes are to be scattered. I didn’t have the energy to fish once I was there, though. On the way out I had to stop and rest a lot. I didn’t sit down to rest, as I was sure I’d never get back up again. But I made it back to the trailhead in fair shape. I’ll go in again later in the summer to fish.

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      • I know from medical issues I’ve had and my husband has had that it takes time — months — to rebuild strength, so I’m glad you’re being cautious. I’m also glad you are getting into the mountains, because that will help to rebuild your spirit.

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    • You’re right, Marjorie. That’s why I’m reassured and happy when so many of them do take to the outdoors with smiles on their faces. I especially enjoy the packs of boys on bicycles because they especially seem to relish the freedom and independence the weather and their bikes give them.

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  4. Here in Florida, we’ve banished spring. It was only three days and usually they gave us the sneezes. So now we only have two seasons. Summer and More Summer. I know. We do have December but what do you call a 80 degree Christmas?

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  5. Oh what a lovely piece. Precious to still be able to recall so much – all the senses intact. I have a few memories like this of my own, but mine were mostly of playing on my own and generally in sand at seaside or in a sand pit in our nearby park.. I do remember the sensations of my hands in sand and the smell of the air – and remember other children around me. Thank you for this, it helps bring back many early summers.

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  6. Children certainly DO know how to welcome Spring, Janet. I always remembered the anticipation of being able to walk to school without boots and taking out my bike for the first time each Spring. Unfortunately, I couldn’t (and sill CAN’T!) hit a baseball to save my life!!! 🙂 Glad you slowly came to the conclusion that you were better off outside playing than stuck inside sulking! I loved how you ended the piece with your brother’s comment…..brothers have a way of keeping us honest with ourselves! 😉

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    • Brothers can be a blessing, Lucie. Bob was only 18 months older, but thought that made him the “boss of me” as I bitterly complained to Mom on more than one occasion. We were best friends and stalwart companions until Jr. High and his ability at sports separated us, but we have remained buddies to this day.

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  7. You had me at the first paragraph, Janet, with the kids swarming outdoors to become a colony of happy bees. This entire post evokes so well those spring and summer days of long ago when my friends and I played outside from dawn until dusk—and beyond. During our baseball games the catcher held a flashlight so the batter could see the ball coming to the plate!
    I was so happy to read that your neighborhood kids actually still go outdoors, instead of staying indoors huddled over their phones and video games!

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    • Thanks for sharing your memory of dawn to dusk play and the catcher holding a flashlight; what a wonderful memory for you and delightful visual for all of us. I think part of the reason I enjoy watching children at play is the demonstration that they understand there is more to life than phones and video games. I also appreciate the parents who take young ones to our park’s playground to introduce them to the fun of outdoor play.

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    • They were the days, Kay, and we didn’t even know it; though I’m not certain I could have taken any more joy in outdoor play with my siblings and friends than I did at the time.

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  8. No wonder this post got such a surge of happy responses: you have shared such joyful scenes. And you are right there living in the moment, looking at the world with eyes wide open. I am sure you have inspired others to walk out the door and savour two delights that may be right under our noses: springtime (or at least a sunny winter day, here in Wellington) and children.

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  9. Hi Janet
    once again you have transported me to your world as you welcome spring. I am starting the process on bedding down for winter as the growth in the garden slows right down and the trees loose their leaves. But the bounties of winter are snuggling up in the warm with a good book, having friends around to a potluck dinner and telling tales around the table and art time without feeling I should be out in the garden.

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