Spring Comes Slowly


When Roger awoke he remembered it was a special day. He had circled March 20 on the big calendar in the kitchen and today was that day. Daddy had told him the small blue letters beside the number read, “First day of spring.”

Roger loved spring. He liked the warm sun on his cheeks. He liked the easy wind that didn’t blow up his sleeves and send shivers down his back. And he liked the soft, cool air that didn’t sting the inside of his nose.

Roger put on his slippers, raced down the stairs, and flung open the back door. Then he stopped suddenly; the air was frosty and cold. Snow covered the ground, and an icy wind whistled around the corner of the house and blew his pajamas against his legs. Roger shut the door.

“Today is the first day of spring,” Roger said to his mother who was working in the kitchen, “and it’s cold. Why is there still snow outside?”

Mother smiled and explained, “The calendar keeps track of the time it takes for the earth to tilt on its axis far enough toward the sun so that spring can begin. But it doesn’t happen overnight just because of a date on a calendar. Spring comes slowly.”

“Oh,” said Roger, disappointed.

Then Mother said, “Every day when you go out to play you can look for signs that tell us spring is coming, OK?”

“Even today?” asked Roger.

“Even today,” answered Mother, smiling.

After breakfast, when Roger was bundled up in his snowsuit, cap, boots, scarf, and mittens, he went outside to play. He rode his tricycle on the driveway, making tire tracks in the snow. Then he ran around in the backyard, making footprints in the snow. Just before he went into the house, he ran around to the front yard. Underneath the evergreens that grew in front of his house he spied bits of green poking up out of the ground. He bent down and with a mittened hand pushed the snow away. Bravely sprouting in the frozen ground were the crocuses he and his father had planted last autumn.

“Mother! Mother!” he shouted. “I found it! I found it!”

“Found what?” asked his mother, who had hurried out the front door, wiping her hands on a towel.

“The first sign of spring!” said Roger, pointing to the crocuses.

As the days became warmer Roger found more signs of spring. The crocuses blossomed, skunk cabbages bloomed down by the creek, there were raccoon tracks in the mud along the creek bank, and the pussy willow catkins pushed out of their hard brown hulls. There were even some days when the sun and air were warm and Roger wore only a lightweight jacket and cap outdoors. The robins returned and built a nest in the evergreen tree by the mailbox.

One day it rained and rained, and Roger had to stay inside the house. He pressed his nose against the window and watched the rain streaming down the glass. It rattled in the rain gutters and ran in little streams along the ground.

The next day was warm and sunny, and Roger found brown, pointed spring mushrooms growing under the trees in the backyard. The shrubs around the house were dressed in bright pink and yellow flowers, and the branches of the flowering quince tree were frosted with blooms. Roger reported each new sign of spring to his mother, for she enjoyed this magic season too.

One morning Roger woke up and saw the sun shining in a blue cloudless sky. He put on his warm sweater and baseball cap and went downstairs.

He ran out the back door, down the steps, and through the trees at the end of his backyard. Suddenly he stopped. A cottontail rabbit was hopping off through the trees. A spot on the ground in front of him moved ever so slightly. He bent down and rolled back a soft covering of fur and matted grass. In a small, saucer-shaped nest dug in the ground were four wriggling, lightly furred baby cottontails. Roger stared with wonder at the tiny babies, their eyes still tightly closed and softly whimpering as they tried to crawl under each other. Then he gently replaced the soft covering and walked slowly back to the house.

“Mother!” cried Roger, “I just found the best-of-all sign of spring. A nest of baby rabbits! The mother rabbit put her little babies in the ground so she knows it won’t get cold again. And that means spring is finally here!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie Fuhriman