Today’s exercise in A Year in the Life was to write about the current season. I waffled over whether May 31 should be considered spring or summer, and I went with spring. This was one of those exercises that had me writing until my hand got sore, which is what’s interesting about writing from this book. Some of the exercises are done in ten minutes, and I don’t feel particularly moved by them. Others have me going until I’m surprised at how dark it’s getting, or, if I’m writing outside, how sunburned I’m going to be. But, without further ado, spring.
It is the last day of May, and there are raindrops sliding down the window. My dog tramps in too much mud; new bikes in the garage wait for summer’s light, cool evenings. The warm-weather sheets are on the bed, and I’m compelled to wash them more often than I have in the past. The sweaters are packed away and I wear capris daily.
The Garden (or lack thereof)
A combination of late freezes, rain, and Saturdays spent working have kept us from planting the garden. The backyard looks like a jungle as we let the grass grow higher and higher, hoping it will seed its “bald spot.” The front lawn is full of weeds, naked dandelions, garbage on the curb. We haven’t mowed the front lawn, either, but there’s no good reason for that. I feel chastised when I see neighbors mowing their lawns, or even the orderliness of every yard but ours. My dog comes in with vegetation dangling from his belly from the high grass.
I would rather write about the witch’s garden in Rapunzel than plant my own. I was lazy with my first garden, three years ago, letting my dad take the lead while I hid in my office chatting with my boyfriend on Skype. I later married him, so it might have been a worthwhile investment, but I still feel guilty about my lack of “presence” that spring. I hardly watered the garden at all, trusting that the plants’ survival instincts would produce even without my help. Still, I was stunned to come home from a vacation in August to find cucumbers everywhere.
I like vegetables, being outside, the idea of eating off my own land. I’m the type of person who should like gardening, but I just don’t. I have a free weekend coming and this might be just the time, but I’m hesitant to bring it up to my husband, afraid of relegating another weekend to the endless “to do” list.
One of the first things I did when I moved into my new home last year was mow the lawn. I listened to Dr. Amen’s Sex on the Brain because I was newly married and newly “de-virginitized,” and sex was very much on my brain. I remember Ivan coming home from work earlier than I expected him to, standing on the deck. It was the day before we left for our honeymoon.
By this time last year, we’d mowed the lawn several times already–but the drought meant we stopped mowing shortly thereafter.
Before that, I traded off on lawn-mowing duty with my sister Krystl at our house in the country. I remember the rumble of the mower beneath my thighs, and all the audiobooks: Black Hills by Nora Roberts, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, and Xenocide by Orson Scott Card. Last spring it was podcasts from The Ultimate Men’s Summit and The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan, and now I trade lawn-mowing duties with my husband instead of my sister. As a teenager, I mowed all around the farm for $5, listening to Into the Woods and Jesus Christ Superstar, dreaming up Gargoyles fan-fiction.
Spring makes me want cleaner sheets, so I wash them now more than I ever have before. I like that it’s easier to travel light, and feel my spring and summer clothes have more personality than my winter ones.
I miss having a clothesline, although when I had one I was notorious for leaving clothes in the rain, then leaving them longer so they could dry again. There was something so relaxing about pinning all those clothes up, something calming about the way they billowed in the breeze. The wind and sun don’t take the cat hair off as well as the dryer, but a lint roller will still do the trick.
I hung clothes on the line as early as I possibly could, then kept doing it as late as possible into the fall. I remember hanging laundry many times with my fingers going numb from the cold.
I got married in the spring of 2012, a spring that was so hot we had 80-degree weather in March. The day of my wedding dawned rainy and stayed windy and cold, a throwback to springs of years past but out of character for that particular spring. Hail hit the roof of the church while we said our vows. Sunny skies and 80-degree weather returned the very next day.
Two years before, four months after I met Ivan, I told him I loved him for the first time. We were in the car, driving back to Sioux Falls after spending Easter with his family in Rapid City. He beamed and said, “Really?” and then, “That’s good because I’ve loved you for a long time.”
I always wondered what that meant because we hadn’t even known each other a long time. But I never asked.
A couple weeks later, we had our first real fight, which I still don’t like to think about, but it allowed for some much-needed clearing of the air. It was also what got us to say, out loud, that we’d both thought of making this thing permanent. Still, the months that followed were the hardest in our whole relationship, as the newness of infatuation was wearing thin, but the security of trust hadn’t yet settled in.
A few months ago, Ivan and I watched our wedding DVD, and I was absolutely blown away by how happy and in love we looked. But I still feel that, all things considered, I’m happier still today, to have my books and my pets and the man I love all in the same place. On our one-year anniversary, I cried when Ivan told me it had been the best year of his life. I think we’re both better suited to marriage than dating.
I’ve moved in every season, twice in spring. The first was from the two-bedroom apartment I shared with Katrina to the studio I would live in alone; the second to my house with Ivan. I think the former was the bigger transition.
The spring before we were married, Ivan and I delighted in exploring every cheap, foreclosed house we could get into. One real estate agent used the same combination for all his houses, so every time we saw his name on a for-sale sign, we’d pull over and explore. One house had the electricity turned off, so we wandered around inside it on a rainy night, investigating it by flashlight. Another was big, old, beautiful, and cheap, but had extensive flood damage and would have been a beast to heat. One home had, “I see dead people” scrawled onto the wall leading down to the basement. Another had a litter of kittens in the bathtub. And then there was the big Victorian house that we both fell in love with, even though it was out of our price range–when we got back to Ivan’s apartment, we looked it up and found that it had just sold–probably for the best, but we still talk about it.
We went on house-hunting adventures every weekend, and Ivan sent me photos of the houses he looked at during the week. Ivan was relieved that I liked small houses–but I told him we needed room for at least one accidental pregnancy. I remember knowing I’d be sad when the hunt was over.
The house Ivan bought was one he toured without me during the week. When he showed it to me, I knew he loved it because he almost held his breath while he waited for my reaction. I didn’t have much reaction at all, good or bad. Ivan said he had a good “gut feeling” about the house, which was good enough for me. I figured one of the perks of being married was that you got access to the wisdom of two “guts” instead of just one.
Its smallness hasn’t been as much of an issue as I’d feared–a lot of books can fit on just one bookshelf! My friend Ashley, upon seeing it for the first time, said, “It’s small, but it’s not lacking.” I love that its size prevents us from accumulating too much stuff. And I think it may be true that “love grows best in little houses.”