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.

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It’s My Birthday!!

My birthday demons:
vanquished thanks to a Cosmo,
Cake and nice strangers.

“““““““““““““““““

Yesterday was my birthday. And it was a fabulous day. I don’t have a history of great birthdays.

Long time ago; with Kaye, Melody, Stephanie's sleeve... others?

As my parents are CPAs and my birthday falls in Tax Season, my birthday wasn’t always celebrated on the specific day. It was usually deferred (with my awareness and somewhat reluctant agreement) to a more convenient day. Growing up I can remember spending the actual day in several less-than-celebratory ways:

–          Working at my parents’ office. Nothing says happy birthday more than bookkeeping or data entry.

–          At a college class with my dad, who was getting his degree. In one memorable biology class they were experimenting with mice. I’ll leave out the details here lest any PETA people see this.

–          Watching the Brady Bunch and wishing I had MarciaMarciaMarcia’s hair.

As a result, many years ago I made the terribly mature proclamation to my husband that no matter what – come wind, rain, appendicitis or Armageddon – we would celebrate my birthday ON THE ACTUAL third of February. He has no issue and has obliged.  Birthdays have been better since then.

But this one was borderline great. It didn’t end in a zero or involve gifts or parties, so why was it so great? Here is what I did…

–          I told everyone it was my birthday. With arms spread wide, I boldly declared it and basked in the well wishes from people I knew as well as complete strangers. Two guys in the elevator at work thought I was a little mad, but they complied. In a meeting where half were visitors from another company I didn’t know, I found a birthday buddy – it was her birthday too.  The people at the hibachi grill sang to me with gusto.  Now I didn’t walk around shouting this or wearing the birthday crown like my kids do at school, but you’d be amazed at how easy it is to slip it into otherwise natural conversation topics.  Meeting introductions are a perfect way: “Hi, I’m Maureen and I work in HR. Been with the company 22 years and speaking of that, today’s my birthday.”  Or in chit chat: “Yes, it is Friday. I love Fridays. This is an especially good Friday because it is my birthday.” See, not awkward at all.

–          I shared my age when asked, 44, and left it at that. Usually I share this expecting someone to say “Surely not, NO! You couldn’t be that age! You look far too young!”  When you have that expectation and no one says such things, it can be a real downer. This time I had no such delusions. I officially look about my age. On a well rested day, I might get away with late 30’s/early 40’s, but Friday wasn’t a well rested day. Regardless, I’ve lived 44 years, I have a good life, and if you think I look older than that, I’m learning to be ok with it. (Don’t get me wrong, I slather 7 different potions on my face each day and really believe they make a difference. I’m not so much into embracing my age that I won’t impede its progress with hair color, good skin care and a decent bra.)

–          I left work early to surprise my daughter by picking her up from school (my son was already home). My company allows really great flexibility – and since I had put in a 12 hour workday the day before, I had no qualms about leaving at 3:15. Seeing my daughter’s face when she was expecting a black car and not my red one was a treasure.  When I got home, the weather was such that I all played outside for over an hour with both kids, something else I rarely get to do during the week. Glorious.

–          We ate cake first. Since it was a date night, I wanted to be sure I celebrated at some point with my kids. So at 5:30 the Bonbonerie Opera Cream Torte came out of the fridge, a candle was lit, the kids sang to me and I read my cards. Then we ate. Nothing like cake before dinner to make any day special.

–          My birthday dinner was kid-less. I know I just spent several lines talking about how much I like my kids, but my birthday dinners with them, I have learned, historically suck.  Dinner with small/medium kids are “squat and gobble” meals.  You eat fast, don’t really know what you’re eating and at the end are shocked at how much it costs since you barely tasted anything. Either that or you park your kid with your smart phone playing Angry Birds while you finish your meal, hoping the people at the next table won’t think you are a horrible parent and report you to some kid-snatching state agency. Neither are appetizing.  This time we left the kids with our well trusted babysitter and the two of us went to a new Japanese Hibachi restaurant and shared a meal with strangers. It was delightful! The younger couple next to me were soon to vacation in London and thusly had to endure a list of recommendations from us (we lived there for 3 years). The older couple next to Frank had grown kids who had gone to the same school our kids attend (and have also lived in London) – more story swapping. She was also a writer who hadn’t yet embraced the web and gave me her card and asked me to get in touch about writing blogs. We all had too many things in common for it to be mere chance. It was just great birthday karma.

–          I had two Cosmo martinis at dinner. I don’t drink often, but I enjoy its effects when I do. That’s all I really need to say about that.

–          Facebook. Why? Because people I haven’t seen in 25 years take the time to wish me happy birthday. I know people don’t really remember my birthday, they just see the reminder, but there is something fun about seeing a few dozen birthday wishes from the people you call friends, regardless the tightness of the relationship.  Add to that that this posting might result in even more people I don’t know commenting with “happy birthday”, well, I’m back to my first point – bring on the well wishes!

So that’s my recipe for a great birthday. I’m ever so hopeful I remember this come next year. It will be a Sunday thanks to leap year – hey, I just realized, it will be Super Bowl Sunday!  Maybe I’ll have a Super Mo Sunday party!  You will all be invited.

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