The great thing about having a father in Florida is that I always know the weather in Ft. Lauderdale. Whenever my father and I speak on the phone, he tells me the forecast, his gentle though not especially subtle way of reminding me that if I were to visit, I would be thanked with blue skies, 70 degree days, and a gentle breeze off the construction site outside his window that used to be a golf course. There is nothing like the cry of the Florida egret and the growl of the Florida backhoe.
Of course, he also reminds me of the weather here in Vermont. I am not making up the following exchange we had in early January:
DAD: It’s snowing in Vermont! You should see the pictures on the news.
ME: I can see the pictures outside my front door.
DAD: You’ve gotten a foot of snow!
ME: I know. I just shoveled the walk.
DAD: It’s 70 degrees here. No snow.
I mention this because, according to the calendar, spring is a mere month away. Here in the Land of the Polar Tomato – a.k.a., Vermont – it tends to arrive somewhat later. (Just ask my dad.)
Over the years, my wife has noticed that it is often around Mother’s Day when, almost overnight, the grass in our corner of the Green Mountains is transformed from brown to green and the leaves on the trees abruptly unfurl. Nevertheless, these weeks at the end of February are among my favorite of the year – and not simply because when my father phones, I can reassure him that we’ve had a thaw and the snow is no longer taller than his granddaughter. (Yes, she is 16 years old, but she’s still barely five feet tall.) The days are growing long once again: The day today, for example, is roughly the same length as it was back on October 22. In the next few weeks, there will be moments some afternoons when the sun will feel so warm on the front porch of my house that my wife and I will have lunch there and I will wonder whether it’s time to pull my bicycle out of the shed.
Meanwhile, sugar makers will be putting their final taps in the trees and checking the long lengths of plastic tubing that link their hundreds (in some cases, thousands) of maples with their great white holding tanks. One year I tromped through the snow in the woods with my neighbors Don Gale and Evan Truchon while they were inspecting the taps in their sugarbush high in the woods where Lincoln and South Starksboro meet. At the time, there were only a few inches of snow remaining on my lawn, but the snow was still nearly thigh-high in the forest.
We all know that between this morning and the first day of spring, it will snow and there will be serious cold snaps. We may have a blizzard. (Again, just ask my dad.) I remember that it was the third week in March, 1993, while she was shoveling snow off the roof over our screened porch after a storm, that my wife realized with certainty that she was pregnant with our daughter. The home pregnancy test kit had said that morning that she wasn’t pregnant, but with the conviction of an expectant mother, she decided she was.
In any case, any crocus that happens to push its way through the thawing ground between now and mid-April most likely will be pummeled by snow.
But I do savor this transitional period. I love the lengthening days and occasional balminess. I love the idea that we are all starting to emerge from our winter hibernation. And, yes, I love the weather reports that I’m getting from my dad.
I think it’s time for a visit: I’ll let you know the weather in South Florida.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on February 21, 2010.)