The peepers were putting me to sleep once more; their sweet melodic symphony drifting in my attic window. The sun, now higher in the sky, settled into our bones and by the time Ma turned down the Aladdin lamp on the kitchen table, we were all ready to “hit the hay”. The brook was bubbling past the house with perhaps a shell of thin ice left over from a cold spring night but that would disappear by the time the noon whistle blew. I had walked on the tufts of brown grass next to the brook just to feel it under my feet after what seemed like months of snow and ice and snuggling my face down into my coat to keep the winds from freezing my nose.
There was always that tinge of “spring fever”..that lethargic feeling that made a person want to sit a few more minutes with the sun on his face. But with the words “spring fever” came my mother in full force with her medicinal supplies to make certain her children did not befall any great health issues with the changing of the blood. My brothers got a liberal dose of Father John’s medicine, but I can’t remember ever getting a taste. At my young age, my mind thought that was for boys only and glad of it. Then came the annual boiling of poplar bark. Ma tromped to the nearest poplar (popple) tree, found a smidgen of loose bark and back to the house and the nearest pan. It bubbled and boiled on the old wood stove amidst the rolling of the eyes of several onlookers. When it cooled, a tablespoon would be administered to each as we lined up in the kitchen. One year, she introduced us to a huge purple pill in lieu of taking the bark dose. I only remember I could not swallow the pill and had purple stain all around my mouth and probably drippng off my chin. Ma stood there, insisting I could swallow the pill and I, on the other hand, insisting and probably babbling with plenty of tears that I could not. Well, hands on hips, she said the alternative was the tablespoon of poplar bark. That tablespoon was nothing compared to the bitterness of that huge purple pill.
And the law went out across the Martin household that all mittens should be gathered from every corner and put in one place. The place was called “under the stairs”, which was nothing but an alcove automatically put in place when my father, never a carpenter ,erected the stairs . The mittens and hats were to stay in place until they were need in the fall season. Of course by the time fall season arrived, the hats and mittens were covered with all sorts of summer gatherings which necessitated a huge mitten hunt amidst grumblings from my mother and several muted mutterings of ” I thought I told you kids…etc etc..”
Spring! The running of the smelts. We were fortunate to have the brook across the road and they came up from Twitchell Pond. Cars gathered with the dusk and men with waders, nets and enthusiasm piled out, all eager to get their limit. There were usually one or two who imbibed in a little Old Narragansett or Pabst Blue Ribbon who slipped into the brook, scaring the smelts, and completely ticking off the rest of the crowd. When Dad was fortunate enough to bring some home in the pail, it was a real treat. Cleaned, Ma rolled them in corn meal, popped into a hot frying pan and they sizzled their way to heaven and into our stomachs.
Meanwhile, across the pasture, Grammy Martin hauled down curtain after curtain and soon her clothesline was just a flutter with white lace. The front parlor rug was hauled on to the front lawn and flung over the line when it wasn’t curtain day. Uncle Louis banged on the rug and the dust flew…well there wasn’t that much dust but it was winter dust and had to be thrown into the outside air forever. Windows and doors were flung open to air the house out and get the winter germs eradicated for another year. Grampa , with his arthritis, could do little to help but served as chief foreman. He sure had a gruff voice!!
Uncle Louis knew it was time to get his tools ready for the season, so as usual called on me to turn the grindstone so he could sharpen his axe. The lower part was part of a tire cut out and filled with water and as I turned the grindstone, he held the axe and stopped occasionally to pour a bit more water. I always loved working with Uncle Louis because he did everything so slowly and methodically and it seemed everything was perfect when he was through. His wood piles were works of art.
Down the road, my Uncle Roy was trying to catch a trout from the brook that ran by his house and was making plans to go logging with my Uncle Louis. It seemed that spring had given everyone new life and they were anxious to get on with it.
Dad’s rhubarb was growing by the old apple tree at the side of the yard and he delighted in breaking off a stalk, wiping the dirt on the side of his britches and eating it on the spot.
That was as far as his gardening went after he lost the battle of the vegetable garden vs deer a few years prior. A bunch of rhubarb took no labor, it came up, he ate it and no animal was there to battle him for his favorite treat.
The ice was out of Twitchell; brook fishing was legal the first day of April and there was that little precious space that all the inhabitants of Greenwood Center enjoyed before the summer people arrived. This was the time of year for Gram’s lilacs to blossom and hang over the ditch by the side of the road. The time of year when we walked the pasture to make sure the spring was nice and clear.
Spring was special. Spring was our season.