Spring Fling

Spring is due to officially arrive Wednesday…but being a nearly lifelong Minnesotan, and one who celebrates her birthday in late March to boot, I know this is almost never the time when spring truly begins in this state.

As a child, Groundhog Day annually inspired false hope in me that winter might magically be gone–poof!–in time for my birthday, so I could have an outdoor party and more friends  in attendance than our compact living room would otherwise accommodate.

But a Polaroid photo from my seventh birthday reveals the sad truth–four little girls, bundled up against the cold (save for our bare, knobby knees visible between knee-high socks and stylish mini-skirts). We wore hand-crafted, construction paper birthday hats and gripped balloons in mittened hands on the front sidewalk for a few chilly minutes, with snowdrifts in the foreground dwarfing our first-grade selves.

As the years passed, I became resigned to the reality that “spring” in Minnesota more typically means state tournament blizzards, stubborn ice floes on unfortunately shaded driveways, uneven patches of dirty snow (often into May), potholes, jackets and sweaters well after apple blossom season ends in Washington, D.C., and wet shoes from muddy puddles once temperatures finally do begin to climb.

Suffice to say, when asked to name my favorite season, I’ve never once replied, “Spring.”

Yet somehow my spouse and I selected April 15 for our wedding…curious choice in many ways, especially given that autumn seemed to beckon for such an occasion. Because we lived in the Twin Cities the year of our nuptials, with the wedding set to take place in Mankato, we planned to visit the weekend before the big day to finalize some arrangements–only to be thwarted by a fierce April 8 snowstorm. The following weekend was much better, sporting sunshine and a warmer high temperature, but the trees were gray and leafless and there was a dearth of other colorful foliage in our two (count ’em) outdoor photos.

Yes, there are intermittent years when the calendar’s third month is more lamb-like–take 2012, for instance, when local golf courses opened on record-setting early March dates and, on at least one day, area thermometers registered 77 degrees Fahrenheit.  In fact, the National Weather Service reports March 2012 is now the warmest March on record, with the average Minnesota temperature of 42 degrees shattering the previous March average of 40.6–set in 1910!

And during one of my college springtimes, March was unseasonably mild, with shorts-clad students throwing endless Frisbees and sun-bathing all over campus, inspiring one of the worst cases of spring fever I’ve ever experienced.

But spring is notoriously fickle, and I also have photos from the mid-90s of my then-two-year-old son gazing out the window at a May ice storm that knocked out power to surrounding rural areas–for a few days, I think it was–and kept us from hitting the park or planting much of anything until June rolled in.

Summer, with its often unrelenting heat–or sometimes, worse, a lack of warmth just when you are most longing for it–is also not at the top of my list.

Give me autumn: crisp air, bountiful apples, blue skies, fresh beginnings and holidays ahead. And apparently many people also enjoy a little more “indoor time” at that point in the year.

Indeed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm that most U.S. babies are born from June through September, and August is the month with the highest number of births in 10 out of 16 recent years. You do the math! It’s no wonder the memorable love ballad “If Ever I Would Leave You” from the 1960s musical “Camelot” includes seven lines (the most dedicated to any season) as to why Lancelot could never leave Guenevere in autumn–but only three about how she “bewitches” him in the springtime.

We’re all free to choose our favorite months and seasons. I, for one, am hoping March will not linger.