Then, One Day, It’s Spring… Childhood Revisited

Wondrous that nature
Strips down for winter – exposed,
(And we bundle up)

Yet in spring, covers
The world in dazzling fashion
(And we emerge, bare)
………………………………………..
At the risk of revealing something embarrassing about myself (my collected blog works notwithstanding), I must tell you that one of my favorite movies is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I made all my friends watch it in high school. Yes, you read that right; why my guy friends (yes, you Lee, Nick, Mike, Patrick) still talked to me afterwards has always been a mystery and something that made me love them even more.  Anyway, there is a song in there — wait! I forgot to mention – it’s a musical! double geek-fun! — about how spring arrives… “then…. one day…. it’s spring….” and people twirl, dance and burst into coordinated song. You get the idea.

I spent the bulk of the last week in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, enjoying my first spring there in over a decade and I couldn’t stop singing this song. Spring hadn’t sprung yet in Cincinnati, so arriving in Macon to find it in full bloom was a treat.

Spring is my absolute favorite season, and Macon has few rivals in terms of beauty this time of year. Why so long between trips, you may ask? Well, my parents and sister are CPAs, and the third week in March is pretty much major tax-season crunch time. Long ago I gave up visiting during March because two things would happen: 1. They would work the whole time, including weekends and 2. They would put me to work too.

As my parents are gliding into retirement now, their tax season is very light, so I jumped at the chance to visit this year and bring my family. It was as lovely as I remember. So this post serves to share some images and thoughts about Macon’s spring. All of these pictures were taken within 50 yards of my parents new home to give you an idea of how dense and readily available this type of beauty is.

All springtime visits south have to start with Puffs. Because you will be a-sneezing. My poor boy was a snot-factory the whole time.  The pollen coats everything – the cars, the sidewalk, your eyeballs. Don’t wear black pants – you end up with a yellow bum if you dare sit down outside (trust me, first hand experience here).

cherry blossom peeking out

Macon is known for it’s Cherry Blossom Festival each March. More Yoshino Cherry Blossom Trees than even Washington, DC.  They weren’t in full bloom when I was taking pictures, but when they are, it is like walking through cotton candy. The palest, most sheer pink you’ll ever see, everywhere. Beauty beyond compare.

Looking up through the dogwood

I was lucky enough that the dogwoods were still blooming. I’m not used to seeing both them and the Cherry Blossoms at the same time. They were in full glory and not only are they pretty, but they make great climbing trees. We had one growing up that I could scale in 15 seconds.

magnolia climber

Speaking of climbing trees, the best ones are the magnolias. They look so stately  from afar, but peek under those leaves and you’ll find a wild tangle of limbs spreading in all directions. (I think the magnolia is a living metaphor for the south. A little formal looking from the outside, but underneath a little crazy. It will protect and shelter you, but also encourage you to try out something a little risky.) Every kid should have access to a magnolia tree.

pink azaleas with bee

white azaleas

even more damn azaleas

Ok, so I just learned I’ve been misspelling azaleas my whole life. If you know me, you won’t be surprised, but it still a little disconcerting.

Anyway, azaleas. They are everywhere. You can’t round a corner without seeing them somewhere this time of year. If you are a fan of The Masters Golf Tournament, you know how amazing they are in bunches and stacks. They are very pretty…(but just a little boring if you’ve seen them so plentiful your whole life).

Wisteria... best smelling purple flower ever

Wisteria is basically pretty Kudzu. It is invasive, but since it is so pretty when it blooms and the sweet, heavy smell follows you wherever you go, you don’t mind so much. I also just like the word wisteria. The word could almost mean “the sense of fondness you feel when reflecting on your brief mental breakdown” (wistful, hysteria) or something like that. It’s just fun to say.

ahh... camellias

And then there is the camellia. My all time favorite thing that grows in dirt. It is an evergreen tree/bush that gets these big,  fat, olive-sized buds in December and January, and blooms like crazy in February. I only found a few, precious remaining flowers on a bush last week and was thrilled. They won’t grow outdoors here in Ohio (so sad) so I was very excited to see them.

Let me leave you with just a few more pictures that epitomize spring in the south.

fire ants... run away!

If you know Georgia, you know that it is completely covered in fire ants. As a kid growing up, there were two things you were trained from birth to stay away from: snakes (because they are all poisonous, or at least that’s what they told us) and fire ants (because they will bite you until you die). The problem is, they are everywhere. If there is a crack in the sidewalk, they set up housekeeping. If there is a dent in the earth, they build an ant hill the size of a tractor tire.   It was kind of fun telling my kids how awful the ants are and then watching them walk down the sidewalk, leaping this way and that trying to not step within 2 feet of a hill. I could have told them the ants don’t have leaping abilities, but it was too fun to watch.

redneck mulch

The only thing more prevalent than fire ants is pine straw. As such, it is used liberally in all landscaping activities. Classy. Not much else to say…

Below is a summary image. My daughter paraded around the neighborhood with some clippers, gathering up all the flowers she could find, and this is the result. (Note, to the people next store who had the lovely collection of lilies, I’m really sorry she cut them. I promise she knows better now, and I’ve scolded grandmamma for providing the shears, too.)

a beautiful collection, plus...

Lovely. And there is a bonus image in the picture above, too. Do you see it? Top left corner; see it now? … yes, that’s my mom, in her housecoat and slippers… you see! I’m not making this up! (read the linked posting for further information…)

Happy Spring to everyone! May where ever you are be filled with joyful color this time of year.

A look back…via old 45’s (records, not people)

Music takes me back
vividly: braces, a perm,
Singing to my brush

*****************

I know it is the time of year when people look forward, deciding what to resolve to do for at least the next 30 days.  I thought I’d do some reflection, not of the past year, but of my 11-13 year old self.  How? My parents are moving out of the house they have lived in for 40 years.  I thought I had retrieved all my childhood possessions years ago, but alas, mom delivered to me something I missed: a 2 inch stack of old 45 records from the late 70’s and early 80’s.

What a hoot. This is like digging up a time capsule. What a treasure to be able to look back and try to understand my much younger self through my music choices. Here is what I’ve learned or recalled about myself…

1. I was a dork. Who else had the 45 for the Star Wars Theme/Cantina song? How about The Rainbow Connection from the Muppet Movie? I appreciate these movies now as pinnacles of cinematic excellence, but then, owning these was something I probably shouldn’t have advertised.

2. I thought I was a really good singer. Three records I remember playing over and over again, singing at the top of my lungs, convinced I was as good as the original singer:  The Rose (Bette Midler), Torn Between Two Lovers (Mary MacGregor), Nobody Does it Better (Carly Simon).

3. I believed myself to be a good dancer.  Several top-notch disco like dance tunes are prominent in the collection.  Makin it (David Naughton), Hot Line (The Sylvers), The Rubberband Man (The Spinners). When I pulled these up on iTunes to recall them, I could feel my muscles twitch, anxious to get up and shake it.

4. I had good taste in men.  I don’t care how old I get, Shaun Cassidy is dreamy. Yummy. Cutie-pa-tootie. I have the record sleeve from That’s Rock N Roll and it still makes me flutter. That feathered hair! Those blue eyes! That dimple! Did anyone else see him last year on Oprah… still adorable in my book.

5. I believed many famous rock singers fancied me.  I would sit around and sigh heavily while listening to these, convinced that they were written and sung expressly for me.  Beth (Kiss), Even The Nights are Better (Air Supply), Too Much Heaven (The Bee Gees).

6. I was a pathetic follower. What else could explain Double Dutch (Frankie Smith) and Le Freak (Chic) in this collection. I believe I bought and learned the words to these only because the cool kids did. See number 1 here; I was never the cool kid; why did I bother.

7. What was I thinking?  Deja Vu (Dionne Warwick), Hot Summer Nights (Water Egan — who???), I’m Alive (ELO, from the Xanadu Soundtrack).

8. Finally, my favorite category. The “Insta-Recall” records.  If you don’t hear the chorus of each of these as you read this, then clearly you are a lot older or younger than me.  Blinded By the Light (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), Dancing Queen (ABBA), You Make Me Feel Like Dancing (Leo Sayer), Da Doo Ron Ron (Shaun “Dreamy” Cassidy), Keep it Comin’ Love (KC and the Sunshine Band).  Did you make it through without hearing those songs? I doubt it.

At first I thought this was just a joke gift from my mom. Then I thought perhaps these might be “retirement funders” and spent several minutes getting repeatedly disappointed on eBay. Now I think they are a wonderful gift. I don’t have a turntable anymore, but am contemplating a purchase. At the very least, I have downloaded several of these on iTunes and have been torturing, I mean delighting, the kids with my great voice and killer dance moves. I am going to see if I can find my Shaun Cassidy poster now…

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