It’s the first day of spring! In Chicago that means 37 degrees, bare tree limbs, and flower shoots just starting to push up out of the ground. In short, underwhelming. I can blame the fact that this is the earliest first day of spring in 120 years, or that spring rarely measures up to the warm vision retailers present when they show Easter clothes and outdoor egg hunts. We want winter to be over.
Extreme weather occasionally gives us 80 degrees in February – one day to shed our coats before we go back in the deep freeze. But once the calendar says it should be spring, we all become more impatient for its arrival. It seems to start with St. Patrick’s Day when folks gather by the Chicago River to see it dyed green. Such a pretty spring color, and in contrast to the still gray city. The days have already gotten noticeably longer, then daylight savings time gives us more afterwork light. Along Lake Shore Drive, the ritzy condo buildings have huge tulip plantings. The embankments along the highway brighten with daffodils. Winter coats and boots are put away, people start wearing shorts, cars are lined up at the carwash, and our neighbor starts grilling.
Easters of my youth combined the pride of wearing my new spring dress with the frustration of having to cover it up with my winter coat. Snow regularly fell on the new crocuses. Tree limbs full of blossoms were sometimes snapped off when covered in wet snow. Still our hope for spring is persistent. We can control our indoor temperature, so why not outdoors as well?
Of course the surest sign of spring I’ve found in Chicago is when the restaurants set up their outdoor dining spaces. Urban eateries with just a sliver of sidewalk space have carved out a bit of outdoor seating, bordered by planters that will soon be filled with blooms and trailing vines. Space heaters are used for a while. No matter that you’re 6 inches from an idling car or a sweating biker. I guess, for a city with a limited number of weeks of warm weather, we want to take advantage of every day of it. Even if we have to start in March with a little snow on the ground.