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Lessons of Spring

Spring in Richmond! It’s rife with daffodils in gardens, baby bunnies in backyards, a dusting of yellow powder on everything, and hummingbirds helplessly trapped in the garage. 

Okay, maybe that last one’s just at our house. But we all know the season. It’s the transitional period before summer, earmarked for outdoor festivals, indoor cleaning, and gathering with friends on the recently power-washed deck.

Ahh, spring – season of hope, new birth, and sneezing. In Richmond, it can last anywhere from twelve hours to three weeks. To fully celebrate this much-ballyhooed season, we had a tradition back in the salad days, when story time at the library was one of our most pressing commitments.

I’m sure I lifted this from a parenting magazine somewhere, but over time I managed to claim independent authorship of what the women-children and I called the spring walk, also known as a scavenger hunt.

Every year, we’d strike out on a neighborhood quest in search of the signs. Crocuses popping up through winter’s spent annuals, robins with swollen bellies, lamb’s ear growing around the base of a neighbor’s mailbox post, forsythia just about to bloom forth, and the flower Sam absolutely adored – the dandelion. 

“How can something so pretty be called a weed, Mommy?” she would ask, presenting me with a tiny fistful of sunshine, which invariably ended up in the bottom of the stroller, and a few times, in her younger sister’s mouth. Oh well, technically it’s an herb.

One year, I’m pretty sure spring was over by the time we returned from our spring walk. I could feel it waning as we rounded the cul-de-sac and headed across the street for the comforts of home. We wiped the sweat from our collective brow, bemoaned our red faces, and dragged our damp, dispirited bodies up the front steps and inside to air-conditioned relief. As I made my way to the freezer for ice-pops to usher in summer properly,
I knew what was coming next: “Can we set up the Slip ‘n Slide?”

Before I continue, let me be clear about something. This is not a rant on the weather. After all, how could I possibly grumble about the weather with NBC12’s meteorologist Andrew Freiden quoted in this issue of RFM? And like I tell my family all the time, there’s no use complaining about things over which we have no control. Like the weather. Or traffic on I-95.

No, I like spring in Richmond just fine, as short and unpredictable as it can be. Factor in the runny noses, allergy eyes, and persistent coughing that plague three-fifths of our family, and spring is definitely high on my list of seasons that come every year after winter.

The truth is, by the time the longer days and warmer weather arrive, we are so ready to spend more time in the great outdoors that it truly doesn’t matter that doing so makes most of us physically sick. The emotional benefits of a quick game of four-square in the driveway, juggling soccer balls, or riding bikes in the neighborhood after dinner far exceed any drawbacks the pollen-laden spring breeze might blow in our direction.

Are you looking for other condensed activities to get the family outside this spring? Try some of our favorites, like weeding for at least twenty minutes to assure the neighbors and other passersby that you actually do care about your yard; planting flowers, bushes, or a tree (Arbor Day is April 29); walking instead of driving to the store for that gallon of milk you need for breakfast; biking to the library to pick up the book you put on hold; sidewalk chalking messages of support to the community; or washing the car together before summer’s water restrictions might take effect.

The common denominator among most of these spring pursuits is the length of time it takes to execute them, or rather, the lack thereof. In fact, after a long winter, mustering the energy it takes to get outside among the birds, bunnies, and other humans might take longer than the actual activity. But that’s quite alright. There is no maximum time requirement for spring activities. Moments shared and memories made together in the sunshine and semi-fresh air are what matter now. 

Thinking about it this way, when it comes to actually getting outside with our kids, the lesson of spring in Richmond is a timeless one for families. And take it from a parent who has one child in college, another moving into her first apartment, and her oldest getting married this spring: As quickly as spring in Richmond morphs into summer, childhood is even more fleeting. Treasure every minute of it – and enjoy your spring!  

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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