When I was a child, spring arrived when my mother cried out, “Look. The first robin!”
No matter that frost in Pennsylvania could linger into May. Mother’s thrill at sighting that small, orange-breasted bird’s return after winter was a sign—spring had officially begun.
That’s what I told my friend because she had just said that spring was her favorite time of the year. “I wonder if it will get cold again?” she’d said.
As we walked through the neighborhood, redolent with the fragrance of flowering pear and cherry trees, I didn’t say that my mother suffered from anxiety and depression her whole life. Or that her joy at seeing the first robin was probably as much about hope as spring. Maybe she expected life to feel better.
For me, spring meant longer days, time dwindling toward the end of the school year…shedding the heavy winter coat. An expectation of summer and barbecues to come of roasted chicken and corn at the old picnic table near the weeping willow. It meant Mother in pale-pink sleeveless dress pouring iced tea from a glass pitcher.
It struck me after I said this about my childhood. “I’ve been around a long time.”
My friend said she felt that way too. “On Easter, my sister and I drank shots of Bailey’s Irish cream from the same glasses our mother used to put eggs in when we were little girls.”
We kept walking, two motherless women.
“I wonder if life will ever go back to the way it was?” she mused. She said a couple people she knew doubted life would return to ‘normal’. “Whatever normal is.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “International travel…. I can’t see myself in a place like Morocco or Nepal again.”
We walked past a flowering magnolia tree. A montage of white-pink petals spread beneath the tree like a woman’s wedding train.
A bird tweeted its song.
We stopped to listen.
“Maybe, it’s my mother’s robin,” I said.