Another sign that spring is creeping slowly up on us: yesterday I bought a whole bouquet of daffodils at the market on my way home. It’s easy to dub the daffodil and its bulb-cousin the tulip the harbingers of winter’s end—
the shoots pushing their ways out of their underground globes imbues them with a sense of resilience, a desire to break the barely unfrozen surface and show their faces despite temperatures that some days still don’t rise above freezing.
But, with all due respect to the daffodils and tulips, they are not the first bloom of spring. It’s not even close, actually. D
espite the preponderance of cut daffodils at the bodega, the ones in my neighborhood are still hesitantly poking out their shoots, with no flowers in sight. This week, though, any glance in the dirt around most trees on the sidewalk or at the park will reveal clumps of grass-like blades with purple flowers that look so delicate they might be made of tissue paper. The crocuses have bloomed.
Crazy Eights is now almost two years old. With the temperatures rising into the 40s on many days, she’s now insisting on getting out of her stroller and walking everywhere, which makes most of our walks more leisurely in pace. This week, in fact, is the first time in her life when she can stop and smell the flowers. Probably for another two weeks, perhaps the only flower she will stop to smell is the crocus, which (to my nose at least) doesn’t really have a smell. I tell myself she’s just practicing for the roses and calendulas.
This week, as we were stopping to smell some crocuses in a small plot in front of a three-story near 4th Avenue, I noticed for the first time some flower clusters that were not purple but yellow. I’d seen different-colored crocus varieties in books and catalogs, but I’d only ever seen purple ones out and about in the city. I took a few shots on my phone.
“So, you like the yellow ones, eh?”
An older lady with grocery bags in each hand was approaching us, smiling. “I been planting those myself for years. Last year was the first I ever got to see the flowers. Funny thing, the squirrels won’t touch the purple ones, but they eat the yellow ones up right when they bloom. But two years ago, the city did a huge bout of rat poisoning on our block—killed most of the squirrels too. So now I got yellow crocuses in my yard instead of squirrels. I ain’t complaining.”
After this conversation, I’ve noticed yellow crocuses on our block, and tucked away around various trees dotting the sidewalk—not a lot, maybe roughly equivalent to the amount of black squirrels in relation to the much more common bushy-tailed variety. Speaking of squirrels, I still see them but now I can’t help thinking there are in fact fewer this year. Checkers will soon be five. Next year, my children will be three and six years old, and maybe we’ll have yellow crocuses again. Or maybe we’ll have more squirrels again.
Sometimes I feel my kids growing, and I just want to squeeze them tight and make them stop. Growing, that is. Time can reveal itself in unexpected ways, and I get nostalgic in advance for the ages they currently are. I know that the crocuses will soon be gone for the year, replaced by daffodils, tulips, wild garlic, roses, daylilies, and on and on until they all wither, die, and wait to be born again next year. Each year, my children will be slightly different people—Checkers will be on the first leg of her journey through the New York City public school system, and Crazy Eights will be on the verge of preschool. And the crocuses will be out, for a couple of weeks at least, whether purple or yellow, to remind them to take their winter coats off, go play, and remember that, no matter how cold it gets, spring will always come.