Springing Back: The good old days bubble up every year around this time.

written by: John Shuff

Everyone has their own special season, a time of year that conjures up special memories that bring a smile to your face for no particular reason. For me, the time would be my childhood in Cincinnati. The exact moment would be when the outside temperature hit that magic number and you’d unbutton your Burlington Mills winter coat and take that first big deep breath of full-on springtime.

The first signs of spring were the tiny buds on the magnolia trees in our back yard, or the patches of green emerging between the melting islands of snow. You could smell mom’s apple cobbler cooling on the sill of her open kitchen window, and you could hear the sound of the garden hose as my brothers rinsed the salt off my dad’s Buick Roadmaster. Spring was hauling bags of peat moss and fertilizer for dad’s rose garden. It was all of these things and then it was the big one: the Reds’ home opener, the bold big number 18 on Ted Kluszewski’s sleeveless jersey blazing in the afternoon sun.

I can look back now and see springtime in college. Little did I know then that these would be the last really carefree years, the last days when I had responsibility for no one except myself. It was also the season of courtship, of falling in love with my girl Margaret Mary Scanlan. When I was at home for spring break I couldn’t wait to get back to South Bend to be with her, for our dinners and long walks, hand-in-hand in the spring breezes. I’d sneak a kiss or two and daydream about the day when we’d be together forever.

Those were the carefree years, and maybe that’s why I cherish them now. Life was easy then, and we were indestructible. We drank from the garden hose—and no one got sick. When the neighborhood gang met at the park on Ludlow Avenue for a baseball game we all shared the same milk bottle of lemonade, wiping off the bottle with the bottom of our sweaty shirts. Spring was the time for try-outs for the Knot-Hole (Little League) baseball team. Those who didn’t make it had to face the hard reality that they didn’t measure up. They did (without counseling or fanfare) move on. That was life. We all climbed trees like monkeys and we sometimes broke an arm or chipped a tooth. We had cuts and bruises and bee stings and grass stains. No one had a helmet or arm pads—and we survived.

We rode our bikes everywhere—that’s how you got around. Mom told us to be home at sunset—no exceptions. Being on time was the only way she would know that everything was OK. There were no cell phones or play groups or Amber Alerts or carpools. We were just kids and life was pretty simple.

Maybe this season is as good as any to take a lesson from the past, to take time to dream the kind of dreams you had as a kid. Dream big. Dream the impossible. Drink out of a garden hose. Share the lemonade. Go on and eat a chili dog with lots of cheese and onions. Just go for it.

And, most importantly, show your affection by sneaking a kiss.

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