The roses are not in bloom just yet, so I've taken some time to smell the dandelions. And as soon as the yellow fuzzy heads touch the tip of my nose, a rush of nostalgia floods my being. I remembered being a small child, picking big handfuls for my mother, which she would proudly display in a tumbler on her sunny kitchen window above the sink. While picking dandelions this time, I stand transfixed, caught in the memory of our big green yard in Goodrich, Michigan and what it smells like in the spring. I can see the blue swingset that my father assembled when I was too small to swing myself without help. I remember details of color and light, of time going slowly and a sense of stillness that I crave today.
But a single dandelion is not enough to help me reconstruct the entire memory. It wasn't until driving up north to drop Emily off that the rest of it rose to the surface. Yesterday, we stopped at a rest area in Ohio that was surrounded by farms. The lawn was covered in dandelions and as I walked, stretching my legs after 8 hours on the highway, I remembered the sponginess of the ground after a late winter snow melt and spring rain showers. It was so different from the hard red clay in the south and it filled me with a bittersweet feeling that I have left something good behind. I have left my childhood home and the beauty of the north when the gray skies recede and spring transforms the soul through a drastic alteration of the land. It is this sharp contrast, the dark into light, the gray into color, the dry air into wet, ionized moistness that I miss. Farther south, there is a change too, but since winter is not unbearably cold and dark or full of snow, the arrival of spring is not as intense a transformation as it is in my hometown.
It has me thinking of times when I wore a little yellow raincoat and carried a pink umbrella to splash in the puddles on our driveway, watching the worms and listening to twitters in the blue spruce tree. It has me remembering the walk to our mailbox, past neighbors who loved me and influenced my life. It has me thinking of Easter morning and crisp rustling dresses, nylon tights and patent leather shoes. I can see my parents cooking a holiday feast in the kitchen, the steam rising up from a pot of boiling potatoes.
And then I see my life in contrast to their life. A home without the internet, cell phones, text messaging and even cable TV. How wonderful it was...simple and good. These Proustian memories make me happy and sad, full of nostalgia for a time and a place I can only reach in the return of spring.