Spring break has passed, another year checked off. The long string of spring break vacations in my memory has more clarity than other holidays. I can cite where we were, and what we did every year for spring break, but if you ask me what we did for Thanksgiving I’ll have to open up archived calendars. One reason for this could be that I am busier during the fall than I am in the spring. Probably not. It’s because I savor the season of spring like I would a bowl of real homemade ice cream with chocolate sauce and chopped nuts. It’s my favorite and I never tire of having it and it is definitely a rare treat. The theme of rebirth, freshness, and coming to life wakes me up from a long winter’s nap. Everything in me comes to life when the birds begin singing, buds push out of tree limbs, and the perennials poke out of the hard soil.
As a child growing up in Michigan, Spring break was a hoax. We were still enduring a hard long winter when we had a week off of school, too cold to spend the free time outside. It used to make me furious to go shopping in March in Michigan because all the beautiful clothing for spring which promised to reveal arms and legs were on display but it would be months before our weather would allow us to wear any of it. The best of those spring breaks were when we could go some place warm. If we could just escape to some place like Florida and have a week of warmth and sunshine, to wear our sandals and shorts and spend the day outside, then we could make it through the rest of winter and a nasty cold early spring.
When I was in Florida a couple weeks ago the locals cursed those people who take up all the parking spaces, walk in the middle of the road as if they were on vacation, slow traffic to a crawl, and flood the restaurants and beaches with near nakedness. We ought to try and remember how desperate the northerners are for some warmth and ability to enjoy being outdoors. It is something we southerners take for granted after a while. I promised myself I would never take the good southern spring weather for granted, but I now find there are days that pass which are perfect, and I realize I expected it to be so.
I am ready to pack up my long denims in February and turn instead to the racks of skirts hanging in my closet. Living in Arizona before, and now in Texas, it is something that I can do. I love planting annuals and reorganizing the perennial beds in March. I enjoy having a home grown salad on St. Patrick’s day. All the seven years we have lived in the South I have not had the urge to travel for relief during Spring break. Except when we took the mission trip to Chile, and the orphanage in the Dominican Republic, but those were working vacations. I watch all of my neighbors pack up for Mexico, Costa Rica, and other exotic beachy locations while I get excited to slip into my garden gloves after hours wandering the rows and rows of plants in the nursery. We live exactly where I wanted to be when I was a kid on spring break. My garden needs me home to get it tucked in tight for the growing season.
This morning I realized all of my spring yard work has been accomplished in one week. It usually takes me every waking hour of good weather and I push right to the point where it’s too hot to plant or transplant. Usually we are spreading mulch when it’s far too hot to enjoy being outside. On Monday this week I had a truck load of mulch delivered and dumped in our driveway. After living here four seasons I can say I have never once seen a neighbor order their own mulch. I told the boys last weekend, you have opportunity this week to earn as much money as you want by spreading mulch. I also encouraged them to invite their friends to come earn money. I have learned from the past they will work much longer if they can share the time with friends. I told them they had one week to do the work, and whatever they did not finish I was going to have Sam the gardener finish on Sunday. I refused to prod them to work, wake them up or require them to do it. I also refuse to give them everything they want, or money for the entertainment they enjoy.
I was pleased on Monday when Jordan and his friend Robert got to work. Kevin joined in, and that shocked me. He usually says, “no I’m good,” when I offer him work for pay. When I complimented him on working so long without our push he said, “I actually enjoyed the thinking time.” (he is growing up!) Jack and his two friends filled buckets and carried them to the garden beds. I was surprised they spent three hours working without complaining or tiring. On Tuesday, Whitney watched them work all day from the window upstairs and she said, “what are you feeding those boys?” I said, “honest money for honest work”.
All of these kids showed up at eleven every day and worked for at least three hours, and when the twelve yards of mulch was covering all of our garden beds they lined up for payday. I over paid them because their work ethic was commendable. Not once did I have to say to anyone, “it’s time to go work on the mulch pile.” And the bonus was also tied to the honest truth that they did a really good, careful, and thorough job. They know how I feel about my plants.
Driving past our yard makes me smile because I know my neighbors are wondering how in the world do I get my boys to do so much yard work. I’m just teaching them the simple economics of hard work and money in the bank. But most importantly I am teaching them to develop a strong work ethic while they are young. I do not want them to grow up thinking if they put out their hand everyone will take care of their needs. They need to learn young that working is hard but it is the way to meet goals.