By Barbara Matousek
Last year at this time the usual late winter cycles of snow and melting had the river ice receding, and Sam and I regularly watched eagles perched on the edge fishing near open water. We were stuck in that bi-polar March weather pattern that Midwesterners are used to, rushes of warmth and sunshine followed by cold gray skies dumping ice on our roads and driveways, usually dousing us with snow the weekend of the high school state basketball tournament. Eva was not yet walking, and as the single mother of a preschooler and an infant I was constantly pulled in two directions. My sister promised me everything would get easier when my second child was four.
This year we never experienced the usual January cabin fever, the weeks when sub-zero temperatures and winds whipping across the prairie leave everyone housebound. And this February didn’t ever bring the snow dumps we’ve learned to expect. And if there are lambs and lions in March, the lion is definitely out of town this year.
Yesterday we were in the backyard in shorts and t-shirts and Sam pointed out the bright green spikes of chives shooting up through the dead plants from last fall. The kids played a game of sink-or-float with a giant bucket of water and sand, and I got out my garden gloves and cleared away the snaking dead leaves from last year’s daylilies to reveal young sprouts peeking towards the sunshine.
This weekend I got my first preview of the life my sister promised me. While I cleared away dead leaves and removed layers of dust on the outdoor furniture and summer toys, the kids played by themselves. And Saturday night after we (meaning me) were all exhausted from an entire day outside in the sunshine, I sat down on the floor to watch UW-Madison (my alma mater) and Marquette (my sister’s alma mater) play in separate games in the NCAA tournament. The UW-Green Bay Lady Phoenix were playing on a third channel, and I had visions of my father sitting in front of the television trying to watch all three at the same time. Sam told me he wanted the Wisconsin Badgers and “The Marquettes” to win, and then he ran down the hall to his bedroom. Eva followed behind him (as she always does these days) and for a full 25 minutes I sat on the floor and watched basketball while the kids made monster roaring noises down the hall. For a full 25 minutes nobody wanted to sit in my lap and nobody cried “Uppie” at me from the floor and nobody hung on my arms and legs trying to get me to play a wrestling game. For a full 25 minutes I felt myself breathe deeply and glimpse at the future.
And to be honest, it made me a little sad.