On Tuesday, we woke up to 3 inches of snow covering the lawn the car and the driveway winter’s — last hurrah, or so we hoped.
By the time I parked my car at the dentist at 9:30 a.m. the snow was sliding off the car in mini avalanches. “Isn’t this supposed to be spring?” the hygenist said cheerily clipping on my paper bib. “Oh well, it is Michigan.”
An hour later I dressed for the dog park, dragging out the snow boots, down coat and mittens congratulating myself for having the good sense to not have put away the winter gear away just yet. Gordie, our yellow lab, Casey, a golden retriever, and Riley, a black lab, play “catch me if you can” like school-yard rascals, tumbling over each other in the snow.
“Wasn’t it balmy just last week?” I say to Carl, better known as the mayor of our dog park. Weren’t we just were spotting robins and forsythia buds, complaining about muddy paws throughout the house?
“Ah but you know,” Carl said with a congenial chuckle, “this is Michigan.”
It is the common refrain of every native Michiganian about this time of year — from mothers who can only hope to dress their young daughters in short-sleeve pastels and Easter bonnets and runners eager to shed their layers to Opening Day enthusiasts who shed their layers regardless and commuters who know better than to swap window scrapers for sun visors until mid-May.
This is Michigan, we say, where winter may take its leave at a glacier pace and where we’ve learned to never say never, but also where springtime (and the fall, for that matter) are the prettiest, most bountiful, seasons on the planet.
This is Michigan, we say in good times and in bad, for better or worse, take it or leave it. And, if you don’t like winter, you are on the leave it end of the equation.
As Red Whitshank in Anne Tyler’s “A Spool of Thread” remarks: “In my opinion, going to Florida for the winter is kind of like … not paying your dues. Not standing fast for the hard part.”
While spring arrives on time for much of the rest of country, in Michigan we know better than to try and predict. Some of us are superstitious. Cleaning out the fireplace, putting away the shovels, taking down the outdoor Christmas lights, removing the protective burlap from the shrubs might just jinx it.
Sometimes I think I can will the cold and gray away. Two weeks ago I went to work wearing my winter uniform — a black-ribbed turtleneck — for The Last Time. Even though my fingertips were still tingling after a four-city-block walk from the parking garage to the office I said to my co-worker: “This is the last time I’m wearing this sweater. I swear.”
And what do you know, this same co-worker two weeks later posts on her Facebook page a photo of her blazing fireplace. “It is snowing. I lit a fire. The last of the season for both. I have decreed it. That is all.”
Then came the last day of March and 3 inches of snow. And because this is Michigan, I did not believe the forecasters who said the sun would be sunny and 54 degrees on the first day of April. It is, after all, April Fool’s Day.
And yet the snow melted, the sun came out; the kind of sun you can’t help but lift your face toward for warmth, maybe even the kind of sun that hints of cherry blossoms, the smell of warm pine needles, and seeing your own reflection in, take your pick, four of the five Great Lakes.
Yes, the calendar says spring, but this is Michigan, we say, knowing full well our patience will be rewarded a thousandfold and unlike any other place on Earth.