I got a cell phone picture from my North Carolina daughter-in-law Tuesday morning that gave me pause. It showed grandsons John and Cyrus sitting bare-chested, bathed in summer-like sunshine, enjoying an outdoor lunch at their backyard picnic table.
"80 degrees," read the caption.
"What am I doing here?" I grumbled.
Why, indeed, did we leave North Carolina just as a warm, lush, wonderful spring was truly springing once and for all? Why would we give up what just might be some of the finest beachcombing weather of the year, just to return home for the hit-and-miss season that is March in Illinois?
Well, because we're crazy, I guess.
Because we like it.
We like the first glimpses of new life and springtime hope, as tiny shoots of pale-bright green work their way through a winter's worth of blown-down leaves and dried-up grasses.
We like the change in light, in color, and in temperature, as the first balmy breezes of a new season battle against the last cold blasts of stubborn wintertime.
We view the oh-so-subtle changes in the rolling fields around us.
We ooh and aah as buds and blooms begin to sprout; as the tulips begin to awake from a long winter's sleep and bluebells, violets and scilla dot yards and garden plots with the season's first bits of dainty color.
We listen and ask questions of our farmer friends as they prepare for another year spent feeding the world.
We watch the children in the park next door as they shout and run and play and play some more in a warm new world of fun and sunshine.
We even like the work we do, as we rake and pile and haul and burn last year's leftovers, making way for the bright new days to come.
"This is like my first spring," she said, and I knew what she meant, for it is the first year we can remember that we've both had a chance to really enjoy time together spent chipping away at outdoor chores on a weekday morning, instead of frantically turning our backyard into a forced labor camp on every available weekend afternoon.
There are no guarantees, we know, as an early spring can disappear quickly when winter decides it's not quite done with us.
But we know, in the end, it's gotta come.
Gotta come soon.
A Period of Adjustment.
Early spring weather wasn't the only change waiting for us as we made our way home.
After a couple of months of idyllic beach-bumming, we were, almost immediately, plunged back into the veritable vortex of work, fun, commitments and all-out craziness that is often our life in Galva.
She, of course, hit the ground running, and hardly missed a beat.
But I confess that I've struggled a bit with the new-to-me notion that folks might rightfully expect me to keep up with commitments, make it to appointments and even (gulp) work a bit. I had, in fact, a bright-and-early eight o'clock errand this past Monday morning that I blew by waking up fifteen minutes before I was to make my grand entrance.
She: Did you forget to set your alarm clock?
Me: What's an alarm clock?
But slowly, ever so slowly, I'm catching on again.
A rhythm, of sorts, is re-establishing itself as we greet friends and do the things we've always done in our home town.
Instead of story hour at the library with grandson John, grandkid sleepovers and aimless strolls up and down the beach, it's been time spent with coaches and kids, long drives through the changing countryside and determined walks around Wiley Park and the Johnson-Sauk Trail. I have even begun to re-assert my alpha-male status in the clan of the evil cat Max, and Salty the self-tamed squirrel has rediscovered me, hitting me up for the first crackers of spring just this morning.
But before you know it, we'll start the cycle all over again, as we head south to the "other life" we've chosen to pursue in this back-and-forth year.
And as we face that eventuality, we often think how nice it could be if we could combine both of those lives, all of the time.
But we can't.
So we'll do the best we can.