816 North

Susan Vollenweider - The first daffodils, dandelions and balls of spring

Wednesday, March 20: The first official day of spring. Dare I say it? We made it. We got through the winter, the snow, the ice, the cold and now are rewarded with spring? Sweet, glorious, fresh blooming spring?

When daffodils in my garden popped their heads out about a month ago, a thrill of spring hope shot through me. Three inches of green stems had gallantly pushed above the soil when 20 inches of snow crushed them and my dreams of spring.

Weeks later that snow melted and the stems — a little bent and slightly yellowed from their ordeal — restarted their vertical march. My hope was restored.

In 1888, Walt Whitman wrote a poem, “The First Dandelion,” about the appearance of that bright yellow sign of spring. The very day that the poem ran in the New York Herald a deadly blizzard dropped several feet of snow on that very city.


I was thinking of Whitman’s dandelion as I inspected my gardens the other day. I danced around the yard, carrying on about the daffodils, tulips and hyacinth that had also begun to boldly proclaim not only their arrival, but spring’s, too. Hopeful! It wasn’t hard to see other tangible signs that soon we would close the door on Winter 2013.

The last official no-frost day for Kansas City is still a bit over a month away — plenty of time for winter to reappear and stall out spring again. But I saw something that tells me, no, it here. What is this sign that won’t be slowed by something as trivial as frost, or even several feet of snow?


Specifically basketballs and baseballs. While I was waiting for the snow to melt off the daffodils, the boys were already glued to the television cheering for basketball.

“Oh, is it that mad time again?” I asked them.

They ignored me and cheered louder. Yup. Madness. Balls and buzzers and squeaking shoes; brackets and winners and daily compare and contrast sessions.

“I’ll see you guys when you are happy again,” I told them.

The next day we got an email from a baseball coach notifying us that Noah would be on his team. Two days later, a phone call from Luke’s new coach. This week: practices begin.

Baseball? Again? I don’t think that my folding chair has recovered from last season. (It hasn’t — it died. I gave it a proper burial in a trash can at a far-away field when the many seasons of sun, sweat and spilled nachos took their toll on the fabric.)

This is the spring that the daffodils have been fighting to see? Why the distant Midwest relation of Walt’s dandelion will soon be showing its trustful face?

The flowers — or Walt for that matter — didn’t have to carpool kids to practices, juggle multiple ball-related events on the same night or even give up the good television set in the comfy living room for a full month of college basketball games.

Walt didn’t have to pony up for a new folding chair or be doomed to another long spring of bleacher butt.

But so many — three of them in my own home — look to these signs of spring with as much hope and delight as I look to my daffodils; as Walt looked to his dandelion.

Welcome, Spring. We missed you.