Sight: The sky turned brilliantly blue, dotted with fluffy pillows of clouds. Trees, which once stood stark and bare, blossomed profusely. Outside surroundings revealed overwhelming evidence of color’s rebirth in hues of green, pink, yellow, purple, and red.
Hearing: When you stepped outside, a symphony of song birds’ musical masterpieces greeted your ears. Folks ventured outdoors chatting happily with neighbors, lawn mowers buzzed, and the sound of children’s laughter while playing reverberated through the air.
Touch: You could feel the sun’s enveloping warmth kiss your upturned face while a gentle breeze caressed you and tickled your skin.
Smell: As you inhaled, you caught the fragrant aroma of freshly mowed grass and the distinct flowery scents of blooming daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths.
Taste: The air seemed so clean and so clear after a long winter’s season spent mostly indoors, that when you opened your mouth to gulp in the fresh air, you could literally taste spring.
It was a spring day like so many others before and so many more to come. But driving through my hometown after work the other day, my sense of spring transported me back into time…to a similar spring day over 40 years ago.
My hometown sits nestled among hills alongside a rolling river, which meanders its way to our nearest city where it joins another river and forms yet another. For as long as I can remember, a riverfront park, complete with friendly park benches to perch on, lovely trees to offer shade, and a sidewalk upon which to stroll has existed in my little town.
A number of years ago, the park received a major renovation. Quaint gazebos and small pavilions were added and an amphitheater was erected with seats looking out to the flowing water. Concerts and other events are held here and it truly is a lovely park.
One of the main streets of our town, aptly named Water Street, runs parallel to the park and serves as a divider between it and store fronts and houses. Driving along that street on my way out of town, I headed to the old-fashioned bridge which spans the river. I welcomed the sun’s balmy light as it radiated through the windshield warming my face while cool air rushed in from my open car window.
Trees in the park, boasting their blooms, waved their white and pink robes of color in the light breeze. And that’s when I caught a whiff of that irresistible and comforting aroma – freshly cut grass. I glanced at the park and spied municipal workers seated on lawn tractors accomplishing that first cutting of the season.
Immediately, the memory of another spring day literally jumped into my thoughts and provided yet another lofty lift in my spirit.
I was just a teenage girl attending junior high school. Laden down with the drama of such days, fretting over friends and prospective boyfriends (or at least one boy I wished was my boyfriend), a stack of textbooks weighing down my arms (we didn’t have backpacks), and the weariness of a school day finally over, I trudged outside the school building and down the steps at day’s end. I’m certain my head was down, my shoulders drooped, and my heart sank in some kind of misery.
I heard a familiar voice call my name loudly and looked up. My two older, married sisters waited in my brother-in-law’s pickup truck parked at the curb behind the line of school buses. They were downtown on errands and finding themselves nearby as school dismissed, they decided to offer me a ride home.
Ordinarily, getting home without riding the school bus would have made me happy. But that day, something troubled me. No doubt, it must have been trifling because for the life of me, I don’t recall what rendered me unhappy or upset.
I’m not sure if I did poorly on a test, I was angry at someone, or I just had a really bad day at school, or it was just the moodiness of puberty, but I felt down in the dumps. Obviously, some kind of teenage angst had me in its grasp.
My oldest sister slid over from the passenger seat, making room for me to climb in, so I occupied the seat by the open truck window. The day was beautiful. Warm. Sunny. Flowers gaily nodded their heads each time the wind blew a little breath. But I didn’t seem to notice, too preoccupied with my gloomy disposition.
We drove down Water Street beside the riverfront park. Trees lined the park in a profusion of budding blooms and the scent of mowed grass wafted through the air. But I didn’t really notice.
The traffic signal at the bridge turned red and we paused in a long line of cars waiting for our turn to cross the bridge and leave town behind. Sitting in that truck on a glorious spring day, I must have appeared glum, forlorn, and melancholy. Suddenly, a young man stood beside my open window, saying to me, “Here, this is for you!”
Startled, I incredulously looked at this guy holding a twig loaded with flowering tree buds out to me. He wasn’t someone I knew. He wasn’t from my school. He was older than me, but not one of the high school guys either. He must have been a college student attending the state university’s branch campus in my hometown probably just relishing fresh air and a splendid spring day while strolling through the park.
And he presented a sprig of spring to me, a complete stranger – a scrawny 14-year-old girl who wasn’t happy with her life at that moment. He must have recognized that winter still lurked in my heart and mind when he offered that blooming branch to me. I reached out and accepted his gift, managed to mumble a surprised thank you as the light changed, and we drove onward.
I stared at the pink blossoms in my hand, wondered what just happened, and smiled happily all the way home. My sisters had plenty of questions. Does that guy like you? Who was that? Do you know him? Why do you think he gave that to you? Are you sure you’ve never seen him before?
I did not have any answers. But I have never forgotten that day. The way the sunshine warmed my face. The way cool air blew my hair into my eyes. The way the park looked so inviting with flowering trees and sun glistening on the water. The scent of grass and delicate blooms. The kind and thoughtful gift granted to me brightening that particular moment in time. The feel of that small tree branch in my hand. And the joy that flooded my soul due to the random act of one kindhearted stranger.
I kept that little branch in my room until the blossoms dried up and fell off the twig. I never saw the college student again and eventually I forgot what he even looked like. But I have never forgotten the feeling he gave me that day. And I don’t believe I ever will.
I moved back to my homeland almost 14 years ago, and every spring since then, I remember this caring gesture from long ago when I drive through my little town, along the river, by the park with those blossoming trees.
Yes, today in my book called Opportunity, I pleasantly recall that balmy day so many years ago when a thoughtful young college boy caused a smile to spread across my face and my heart to sing when he bestowed a special gift upon me – the gift of paying attention to spring, a gift of hope and joy and rejuvenation.
“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” ~Harriet Ann Jacobs
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