Transitions: Several Types, All the Same

Present to Past

A year ago this week, I was in Barcelona. It rained relentlessly the three days our high school tour was there. I was robbed in Barcelona, lost my wallet without a clue it was happening: credit card, all my cash. I was cold and damp and jetlagged. The morning we left for Madrid, sun and blue sky appeared.

And yet now, looking back, I remember Gaudi, Parque Güell, Sagrada Familia, the delightful ninth grade girls assigned to me, the glass of cava I drank for Mónica Lavín, hams hanging above the bar, splendid narrow streets whose balconies blocked the sky. “What an experience,” I tell people. “I wouldn’t have missed it.” Once an event shifts sufficiently behind us, times of tedium and ugly moments fade while joyful memories swell. Approach “the good old days” with extreme caution. Chances are, they were never that good. Ah, but I loved Spain.

Jamon in Barcelona

Jamon in Barcelona

Winter to Spring

This year, we had 80-degree days in March. It was unnerving. I went for walks without a jacket. Brazen crocuses burst purple petals through a crochet of last year’s dead leaves, elms and maples went red and swollen at the tips of their branches, crabapples and plums broke into bloom. It was dry and I set the hose out. Watering in March. 80 degrees in March, our allegedly snowiest month.

Denver crabapple

Denver crabapple

The neighbor got out his motorcycle, rumbling not heard since some mild November day. I opened windows that hadn’t opened in months. Across the alley, they opened the umbrella over the backyard picnic table and the two little ones—bigger now than when I last saw them—spread toys over the patio. I’d been drinking nothing but coffee and hot tea, suddenly craved limeade.

My concentration slipping, I was drawn to the sunny yard, my easy winter mooring to the desk suddenly loosened. I began flowerbed cleanup, all the while thinking, “too soon.” A certain satisfaction accompanied the cold front that arrived with April, snow falling steadily into the night, though I knew it wouldn’t last. “This is more like it,” I declared, and returned to my desk.

Endings and Beginnings

We chug along smoothly at school, students and teachers, once the startup jostling is done, establish a certain rhythm, class to class, week to week. The education train glides along the rails with barely a bump. However, once an interruption like spring break looms before us, the pace starts to flag, the harness to chafe. Days before break, teachers exclaim, “oh, I’m so tired of these kids.” Days before break, students are already gone, a few physically, most of them mentally. “What you’re writing,” I reiterate, “is a monologue, not a soliloquy. You remember the difference?” “Ms. Dubrava,” a student happily replies, “I’m going to California for spring break.”

Sleeping and Waking and Growing Up

Our grandson Shane is a tall young man who turned seventeen this week, spent spring break looking at colleges and graduates from high school next year. (There’s a transition I have trouble grasping.) When he was a baby, he fussed before naps and bedtime. Patting his back to ease him into it, our daughter Snow, his mother, explained: “babies don’t like transitions.”

“Yep,” Phil confirms, when I say I’m writing about transitions, “we want things to stay the same, but we don’t want things to stay the same.”

Spring break is over. My mini-excursions away from home, my brief holiday from planning classes, from school email, from getting up early, Facebook, working on my translation project—all that is over. Anxiously scanning the calendar for how to fit in what must be done by Monday, I become a little fussy. It’s not only babies who don’t like transitions.


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3 Responses to Transitions: Several Types, All the Same

  1. “a crochet of last year’s dead leaves” … fantastic! I picture the long hooked needles of winter pulling the leaf-fall into very particular place. My grandma working by lamplight, quick quick quick, hesitating only at the end of a chain of fuzzy links. As in:


    Eating earned us her grace: almonds
    like chunks of moon, red candy apples,
    potato chips, Coke. We’d joke about her
    while nursing her creamy nutmeg malts.
    She gave us dollars rolled up like buds,
    and we spent them on gumballs and trinkets.

    Now, when we hug her, we recall our clever
    kibitzing: how she heard, but always let
    the lamplight flash her bifocals blank;
    how she rocked, crocheting the coarse
    yarn of her starved youth into slippers,
    whose warmth we wore to rags on the street.

  2. Gregg Painter says:

    After the FebruaryMarch of 2014 and 2015, some are calling February (in Denver) “the new March.”

  3. Bob Jaeger says:

    The new March. Spooky. Lilacs frozen the last two years are now in full bloom.

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