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.