Spring is here. The sun is shinin’! The birds are chirpin’! The flowers are bloomin’!
Well, dang my buttons! Cock-a-doodle-doo! Ain’t it great to be alive? Yer derned tootin’ it is!
When I was a kid, I looked forward to spring because on rainy days I could wear my yellow raincoat to school. No self-respecting boy would even think of carrying a sissy umbrella. No, boys wore boys’ raincoats, and they were real raincoats — sturdy enough and enveloping enough to keep you nice and dry on a commercial fishing vessel in the North Atlantic.
The calf-length coat — usually yellow, but sometimes black — was made of heavy rubberized fabric, with steel buckles up the front and a collar that could be hiked up. The matching hat was sort of a helmet that protected both the head and neck; it was made of rubberized cloth, too, with snaps and a little bill to keep the rain out of your eyes. Finally, there were rubber rain boots, always black with buckles. They slipped over your shoes.
The only things exposed were the boy’s face and hands. I haven’t seen an old-time school raincoat in years. Most kids are driven to school these days, but my friends and I enjoyed walking, and wading through the mud puddles and pooled water along the way. Why? We were boys, and that’s just what boys did.
On nice spring days, outside Edison School in Westville, we’d play marbles, marbles, marbles. The swings, sliding boards and merry-go-rounds were used, too, but boys preferred marbles. (Girls jumped rope and played hop-scotch or jacks.) There were moonies and steelies, stripies and tiger eyes. You could play for fun — which meant you got your lost marble back — or for “keeps.” You could shoot from outside a circle, or “lag” your marble, and begin a chase that ended with a shootout.
In spring, we’d ride our bikes, play baseball, fly kites and steal daffodils and tulips for our mothers. (We loved our moms, but we also hoped to build a cushion of good will that might, we hoped, lessen future spankings. It never worked.)
Meanwhile, our teacher got us ready for the all-school “spring program.” Parents and grandparents were invited. Some kids dressed as Peter Cottontail. Others became construction-paper daisies. Butterfly costumes were big, too.
We sang spring songs: “Awake, awake, it’s springtime; the gentle breezes blow; the sunshine whispers to the flowers, awake, awake and grow … ”
We sang “April Showers.” “Though April showers may come your way; they bring the flowers that bloom in May; so when it’s raining have no regrets; because it isn’t raining rain, you know, it’s raining vi-o-lets; and when you see clouds upon the hill; you soon will see crowds of daffodils …
“So keep on looking for the bluebird, and listening for his song, whenever April showers come along.”
I didn’t understand it then, but that’s good advice … in spring, winter, summer or fall.
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.