The First Day of Spring! Never before in my memory has spring been so reluctant to show itself. It still hasn’t. I am feeling so kind of chewed- up and spat-out by this cold darkly relentless winter, I need more than a calendar date marking the vernal equinox to believe spring is here; I need a sign, a shoot, a bud, a robin, something!
I can’t think of the equinox without thinking of Denis.
Years ago, in the middle of the journey of our life, on a better First Day of Spring (buds a-swellin, birds a-singin and sun a-shinin), I found myself standing in an elevator lobby on the top floor of the science building at a great Massachusetts university.
I was gazing out the window over the hills toward Boston, rejoicing in the scene that lay below me– little-lamb clouds in a baby-blue sky and the greeny-gold haze of buds on the trees; when I was joined by– such a golden vision of loveliness– a biochem grad student.
On other days, biochem grad students are not all that cute. But It was spring, my heart was full, and the gods had sent me a youth, all pink and white, slim, almond-eyed, pouty-lipped and ginger-haired. Adonis! Ganymede! The urge to cavort, or to suggest cavorting, arose in my bosom.
“O Young man!” I chirped at him, “It’s the first day of spring!”
“You Americans,” he shot back, “You always make up official days. Mother Day, Saint Patrick Day, First Day of Spring! Why you doing this? I never understand.”
Oh dear, a Russian biochem grad student.
“No, no, “ I replied, “Americans didn’t invent the First Day of Spring, it’s the vernal equinox, you know, when the days and nights are equal in length? Here’s the earth, see, and it’s tilted on its axis, and here’s the sun, and twice a year the sun hits exactly half of it, see…”
I was drawing circles in the air with one fist while holding the other one still– my own portable planetarium– and gazing into those pretty brown eyes, which were now rolling with impatience. His pretty hands were making that Russian fly-swatting gesture of rejection.
“What now, you think you tell universe what to do?” he sneered. Even his sneers were cute. Why wasn’t I kissing him?
“Go look it up, kid,” I said. We got on the elevator and descended. We never said another word to each other.
I didn’t kiss Denis to celebrate the equinox. Earlier in my career I would have. That’s how I knew I had arrived at the middle in the journey of our life. I was forty, not so young, not so old; but I didn’t kiss Denis on the First Day of Spring. The next day it snowed.