The Worst of Times
My daughter tells me that spring is her favorite season. This, of course, is ridiculous, but she’s 10 years old. I can forgive her foolishness because she still has a great deal to learn. What can I expect from a person who won’t try macaroni and cheese and still tries to rationalize with her six-year-old brother?
We all suffer from naiveté from time to time.
Spring is a compelling concept but does not come close to measuring up to its claims. Conduct a Google image search of the word “springtime.”
The screen is filled with impossibly green fields of the most remarkable colors you’ve ever seen. Sunshine and butterflies and honeybees. Smiling children lying in swaths of pristine grass.
Spring is, of course, the worst season of the year. The least defined season. Barely a season at all. Spring is the bastard stepchild of seasons. It’s the season still living in its parents’ basement well into adulthood, uncertain about what to do with its life.
Spring is like a philosophy major. It doesn’t know what it wants to be.
“But Dad,” my daughter counters. “What about all of those springtime flowers?”
Flowers? The parts of spring that aren’t buried in three feet of snow or a foot of mud might have the odd blossom, but the summer and fall are filled with flowers. The flowers that finally appear at the end of spring… they are everywhere in the summer. Wildflowers and roses and mums and more.
Besides, the idealized notion of spring lasts about nine minutes. It’s more often than not overrun by winter and overtaken by summer. Snow on the ground in April. Beach days in June. Honest-to-goodness spring, with all its flowering beauty, probably lasts about three days every year.
How can you be known for flowers if it’s still snowing during your season?
Fall has foliage. It’s got an iron-clad contract with the trees. No leaf even thinks about changing color until autumn has arrived.
Winter has snow. Skiing and sledding and snowmen are all firmly affixed in the wintry months.
Summer has surf and sand. Bathing suits and beach towels.
Spring is a transition from snow to slush to mud to something marginally more delightful for half a second or so.
What does spring really have?
Baseball begins in spring, but let’s not fool ourselves. Baseball players are called the “Boys of Summer” for a reason, and the World Series is known as the “Fall Classic.”
Easter lands squarely in spring, which might mean something to those who celebrate this holiday, but the rest of the seasons have far more impressive holidays of their own.
Winter has Christmas and New Year’s Day. A formidable one-two punch. Throw in Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day, which offers a day off for many, and winter’s holiday lineup is second to none.
Fall has Halloween and Thanksgiving. Another impressive one-two combination. And unlike Easter, Thanksgiving is celebrated by almost every American regardless of their religion and often comes with a blessed four-day weekend.
And summer? Besides the glory of summer vacation for children everywhere, summer begins with a holiday (Memorial Day), ends with a holiday (Labor Day) and has a holiday smack dab in the middle, too (Fourth of July). It’s got fireworks, parades, backyard cookouts, and pool parties.
Easter is nice, but c’mon. Unless you’re one of the few who get Good Friday off, it doesn’t even offer its celebrants a day off from work.
So what does spring really have? It has a story. A story of flowers bursting forth from the thawing tundra. Trees returning to their gloriously green states. The elimination of winter coats and hats and mittens, and all of this is true.
Maybe. Briefly. Almost imperceptibly.
Obviously, my daughter is mistaken. The season she’s chosen as her favorite is hardly a season at all. It’s a sloppy buffer between two well-defined, legitimate seasons. Spring is a grifter. A con artist. It’s a season that offers the promise of excitement and renewal but more often than not fails to deliver on any of its guarantees.
Spring is approaching, and my advice to all you springtime lovers is simple:
Don’t blink or you might miss it.
Matthew Dicks is an elementary school teacher, a bestselling novelist, and a 39-time Moth StorySLAM champion. He is the co-founder and artistic director of Speak Up, a Hartford-based storytelling organization.
Sean Wang, an MIT architecture graduate, is author of the sci-fi graphic novel series, Runners. Learn more at seanwang.com.