This I believe. I believe in the first robin. When I was growing up in northern Indiana, winter was, and still is, a challenge of snow, chilling temperatures and an endless landscape of white and black. My mother, cramped up in our house with five children, working the night shift at the area hospital, longed for the wonderous arrival of spring. She would tell us to all try to see the first orange breasted robin of the spring. From there, we went on to intensely look for the first bold crocus to shoot up out of the icy black dirt. She never lost her love of that first robin, like the dove bringing Noah that twig of green blossoms to the ark, the first robin was the the symbol that our dreary and dark winter was on the run. My mother would plant an outrageous amount of flowers and plants. Yellow daffodils, red tulips, purple lilac bushes, pink wild roses, winding sweet peas. She dragged home rocks from the countryside and made rock gardens. She cut plantings from friends and families. The first robin always symbolized the color of hope in my life as well. I knew my mother was happier in the spring. The bitterness of the neighborhood, the poverty that crept over our block as so many middle class whites evacuated in the rise of integration. As riots rocked our schools in the sixities, as John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were all slain in the midst of the 60’s revolution, my mother harvested tart cherries and dark concord grapes from our back yard. She concocted intoxicating apricot jam from our very own apricots. Blossoms, white, pink, yellow, and the stems every sweet color of green surrounded our little paradise as the world came tumbling down. My mother also was sensual. She taught us to love the wind, the rain, to smell the flowers and run and reach for the tallest trees. We children all tested her over and over, trying to get out of the house with our feet bare. She was a nurse and understood what the terrors of winter’s intense cold could do to vulnerable fingers and toes. She was fierce and forceful about snow boots and scarves. She dressed us in layers all winter long. Yet, come that first robin, we were on the chase to that first warm day where we would run outside shoeless and hatless out into the dark green grass, under the bright March blue sky. My mother passed away in 1995, on March 8th. She had just passed her 67th birthday. As we five grown children and her precious grandchildren gathered at her house, the temperature rose to 65 degrees. Hundreds of daffodils were blooming. The house was now in the worst part of town. Drug dealers, drive by shootings, abandoned houses going up in flames all surrounded her constant gardening. She had instructed us to divide up the house and the gardens among us, the neighbors,and the Salvation Army, etc. We all now have some of her plants. We all look for spring. We all believe in the first robin. We all believe in the power of spring We strive to teach it to our children, in her name and in her honor. I believe in the first robin.
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