"The spring is sprung/The grass is ris'/I wonder where the daisies is." That's what my mother used to say when spring rolled around. She was quoting my grandfather, and he was quoting a corruption of a childish little poem called, "The Brooklyn National Anthem." No one can seem to agree on the author, but in its entirety it goes like this: "The spring is sprung/The grass is riz/I wonder when them boidies is/ The say the boid is on the wing/But that's absoid/The wing is on the boid."
But springtime never meant much in California. We were never without flowers. Winter meant rain, green hills, and the occasional frost. Sometimes, Mt. Diablo got a dusting of snow, and parents removed their kids from school in a pathetic attempt to make snowmen that were the color of dirt more than anything else. And that was all. I've grown accustomed, now, to having something more like a real winter. There is snow, and the trees curl up to die as though they'd lost their zest for living. The clouds come cold across a sky pale blue with chill, and the dirt is hard with ice when you walk upon it. So I've learned the longing for spring which, wrapped up in the celebration of Lent and Easter, lends to March a seasoning of expectation that my childhood lacked.
Here's how I know it's spring in D.C.
1) As soon as things thaw out, anything within a 1/4 mile radius of the Potomac smells strongly of swamp.
2) The metro system is entirely overrun by tourist groups that feel it prudent to congregate in front of the turnstiles.
3) Walking along Pennsylvania, one hears person after person say with some sort of regional American accent, "Are you sure that's the White House? It's so small."
4) A vendor at Eastern Market sells bars of cherry blossom soap on Sundays.
5) The Marine on guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has put away his wool cape.
6) The dogwoods, magnolias, tulip trees, and azalea bushes -- in addition to the cherry trees, are all agog with blossoms.
7) The National Mall is the site of an annual civil war pitting clusters of tourists against various softball leagues made up of Hill staffers in a battle for space.
8) The entire college population disappears in shifts and comes back discernibly browner and poorer.
9) The Virginia Department of Transportation puts away the snow plows and stops maintaining a massive pile of sidewalk salt beneath a tarpaulin in the parking lot.
10) The skating rink at the Hirschorne modern sculpture garden closes down for the winter, and once again I have not managed to skate on it, which I am beginning to think betrays an indifference toward ice skating even in the most picturesque of circumstances.
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