I wore high-top boys’ basketball shoes to school today. The ground was clear enough of ice and my ankles were enjoying the relief from day after day of wearing those heavy adult slip-ons with the driveway treads. The brown slip-ons sit like giant underbaked loaves on your feet, and you wear them because they obviate the constant changing of footgear that an indoor job in this climate requires. You won’t fall quite as quickly on the ice and snow with them on, but you can get away with them indoors as long as there is a mat or towel to catch the melting mess you carry in on your feet.
My hightops were all about adolescent playfulness and strutting. Yes, I feel the raw tug of desperate symbolism–the day long responsibilities of middle age brightened by the possibilities of youth– as we head into that grim late-winter early-spring stretch of work and home life. People have begun to give each other little packets of seeds as token gifts at the end of formal events. I think I see green under the melting snow and don’t know if I’m dreaming. On the other hand, the basketball-playing girls who wanted prior notice so we could all wear our high-tops together (seeing me wearing them seems to a spectacle akin to seeing E. T. break dance in the school entrance) are weary champions now.
On these worn out days, sleepiness puts its soft arms around me for after 11 am. At lunch I cross paths with another English teacher and quip that I am Sleepy, Hungry and Dopey all at once–she offers Creaky (denoting my joints) and Cranky (all of us with too much to do in too little time are) for our Seven Dwarfs roster. My teenager has been asleep or huddled under a blanket almost every day this week when I arrive home in the late afternoon. I was wondering what was wrong with us even as I’m wondering what kind of civilizational damage is being aided and abetted by our constant turning to coffee, the anxiety-breeding potency of which I’m just managing to avoid. Wait, that worrying about civilization must itself spring from caffeine use, no? My partner reminds me and I realize that there is another reason for the fatigue: oh, it was that Spring Forward thing! It should be called Curl Up and Cope instead, for our house at 4 pm, curled up pet and teenager being sniffed over by a barely-awake den mother in from a meager hunt, is like a cross-section of a hibernating animal den a few feet underground.
On my drive home I noticed that the snow remaining at the sides of the road is mighty dirty? I cringe when children exclaim proudly that they’ve thrown it at each other. Remaining at the roadside is the kind of fossil snowbank out of which,in another Northern state, a fluffy rainbow-hued synthetic clown wig once emerged during the slow thaw. It added real mystery to the usual spring revelation of dog toys and poop. Standing in our boots staring and laughing, we could only wonder what had transpired outside our cramped rental house some night, months ago, in the deep of winter.
As I pulled up to our inland Maine house today after chuffing like a moderately courageous engine through another day at school, an absentminded light snow swirled through the air but did not deign to set its fairy feet on the ground. I paused for a second and wondered, when it started, barely visible, if it might be “something else”. What else? Apple blossoms for crying out loud? Ticker tape for the coming parade of spring, so far nowhere to be seen as we sullenly refuse to crane our necks around the corner? I hope it’s not a futile pursuit to keep asking the snow for a hint of something that is not snow.