That winter was a long winter, the winter when I was 27 and would strap my baby to my back before pulling on my boots. That winter when each night I would lean deep into the truck’s engine, flashlight between my teeth, to unbolt the battery, the metal of the socket wrench sticking to my fingertips, cold. The winter when the hard snow would snap in long lines under my weight — our weight, the baby, the battery, and me — as we crossed back through the yard, kicking off snow at the door, sliding the deadbolt and the chain, a woman alone with her child, a pile of bills on the table, a picture on the fridge from last summer, choices I knew I had to make.
I’d put the baby to bed in the room with the space heater and I’d put the battery next to the bassinet, the strange nightly ritual of my son’s infancy, something he does not remember but is part of his legacy, in that old fading house, plastic tacked to the windows, wind whipping on paint bare clapboard, the house where I learned how to move silently across old floorboards like a ghost, where I taught myself to stay up all night to work while he slept, during the winter when keeping the baby alive and the car running were the only things that mattered.
But spring came. Spring came and the Japanese snowball by the porch thrust open its white frothy blooms and the car cranked on the first try. With the new clover, I dug a garden and the baby learned to toddle and when I dug up a worm and held it out to show him he laughed and reached for it and swallowed it before I could catch him and I fell in the dirt laughing and he learned to laugh too.
Spring always comes. It brings redbuds and lilac and rain that floods out the crawlspace and you stand knee-deep with it coming over the tops of your boots and you bail — but it is nonetheless a reliable friend. The children grow big enough to handle a bucket and they are with you in that cobwebbed space, with you like spring.
Poets write about spring as if it were something hopelessly joyful but both mothers and prose know it is not. Spring brings with it the scars of the winter and the things we have lost, the opportunities of the fall, the picture of our grandmother dancing, the tall, rawboned man who had eyes the same color as pine needles on the forest floor and loved you, one of the earrings your best friend got you at the beach, the feeling that a year is a long time to wait. Mascari and grape hyacinths have a glorious, fleeting beauty, but its the petrichor of the water running off the soil, the decay of last years leaves mixed with new mullein, that holds the balance, the sweet tenderness of spring.
Even if it evaporates too quickly into the heavy heat of summer, spring still comes, a reminder that things will keep moving, time unconsciously unfurls itself, bees fill trees again, no matter how deep we have dug our heels, no matter how drafty the old house, despite the odds, spring.