Remember Spring?

“Ah, spring!” I said as I swung my legs out of bed, opened the window, and was hit with a blast of bitter arctic air in the face, exacerbating the dryness about my noShovel in Snowse and mouth.

As a rolling stone gathers no moss, I quickly donned my parka, my bomber’s cap with fake rabbit fur, and my Gore-Tex boots that take two men and a crowbar to lace up, and filled up the mower with gasoline.  In high school chemistry we learned that gasoline’s freezing point is far below that of water and fingertips, and so I was not surprised when the gasoline gushed out all over the lawnmower engine and onto my boots and the garage floor just as it always did, while the layer of snow on our garbage bins remained as pristine as it was when I brought them in from the curb three days ago.

I had often wondered if a lawnmower could blow snow off the lawn as snow blower blows snow off a driveway.  Well let me tell you: it doesn’t.  I had to shut off my poor confused mower while I shoveled the lawn for an hour, revealing the grayish-green grass that resembled the frozen spinach I pick up from the store when it’s my turn to cook dinner.  I don’t think the mower blade could reach the mashed-down grass but the tracks of the mower wheels were just as satisfying to me as on a Sunday afternoon in July.

July…the very word is like a bell.  I go into the backyard, shovel in hand, to hunt for the buried sprinkler that I forgot to recoil somewhere around Labor Day.  After another hour of shoveling I’ve found the sprinkler along with a few mammoth bones and the cork to a champagne bottle that I popped when McDonald’s announced that the McRib was back.

The sprinkler head was fine but I had to take an electric blanket to the hose to unfreeze the water that clogged its passageway.  The hose was fifty feet long but the electric blanket only a foot and half, so I could only do a small section at a time, moving on down the length of the hose, ignoring the strange looks of my neighbors’ kids whose school had evidently remained closed for the day.  But when they saw me turn on the sprinkler they smiled, and went and got their ice skates.

I grabbed a trowel from the garage and began digging in the flower beds.  I’d lent my ice pick out to someone for a Halloween party last year, so I had to hammer the butt of the trowel to drive the metal point into the flower beds so that I could expose enough frozen earth to dig.  After an hour I had two holes dug out, but my hands were so cold and numb that when I tried to open the little paper bag of seeds I jerked it and sent the seeds flying in a cloud of hope over my newly cut frozen spinach lawn.

My work done for the day, I looked up and down my street, at the pockets of snow on the tree branches, and the dirty ice and slush shoved up against the curb, and tendrils of smoke from the chimneys, and the icicles hanging from the gutters.  And somewhere, in the frozen stillness of March, as the snowflakes began to fall again, I heard a little bird begin to sing.

Remember When There Was No Pope?

When I was a boy I decided that I wanted to be the pope. To show my enthusiasm, I pretended to play the part for a while. I locked myself in my room, and when my parents knocked on my door to tell me it was time for dinner I would blow black smoke at them. Except since I was too youngpapal headgear to play with matches, instead of black smoke I had to sprinkle the black crayon shavings that collected below the crayon sharpener that was built into the base of my giant box of crayons. The white crayon was never pristine, so when this cardinal college of one had made its decision, I had to blow bubbles instead of white shavings, and hope the faithful would forgive me.

I rolled the Sunday comics into a tall hat and wore my Superman robe all day. I walked around, blessing my parents, and making changes to the canonical laws that governed our household. I would no longer drink milk by itself, but only in combination with a suitable cereal such as Cheerios or Kix. Chuckles, the gummy candy that came in five equal pieces, each of a distinct color and flavor, would have to be consumed according to a rigid formula: black, green, orange, yellow, and finally red. I would wear pajamas with feet on weekends only.

My parents and hangers-on had some challenges with these abrupt changes, but eventually their faith gave them the strength to adjust. And just in time, for while chewing a red Chuckle one afternoon, I decided that it was time for me to inject myself into a controversy.

At school a battle had been raging for months over which version of a particular toy sword was the superior weapon in battle. One version had a silver plastic blade and gold plastic handle. The other version had a gold plastic blade and silver plastic handle. The two sides would battle it out in the middle of the classroom during morning recess, and our teacher refused to get involved in anything that did not involve paste.

I could see that divine reason was needed. Taking burnt sienna crayon to a piece of manila construction paper, I issued a papal bull that deposed the leader of the silver blade army and the leader of the gold blade army. I could see that both leaders were contemplating an alliance against me, but by serendipity they and their followers were whisked away to the nurse’s office to be checked for lice.

During outdoor recess I insisted that I be placed inside of a clear plastic box in case any one wanted to draw His Holiness into a game of dodgeball. Amidst the kids skipping rope and plummeting from jungle gyms to the lush concrete below, I sat in my plastic box and read Pope Gregory I’s commentary on Where the Wild Things Are.

My papacy was not immune to scandal. The classroom had only so many toy trucks to go around before boys had to dip into the far less popular toy vacuum cleaners. I was caught selling my influence over distribution of the toy trucks for chocolate milk, and as penance had to pay a large settlement to the families and then sit in the corner.

But at home I still reigned supreme in my regal vestments and pajamas with feet. I looked with pride upon my flock, even if it did consist mainly of stuffed animals and He-Man figurines. I believed that being pope was my future, and that absolutely nothing would get in my way as long as my faith remained strong. And strong my faith remained…right up until the moment that my parents dropped me off at Hebrew School.