The day after Thanksgiving I left for Budapest. The "Christmas Markets" trip was nice, Prague was great, but it was winter. It was cold enough for hats and gloves and sturdy shoes or boots. And that is how December began. When I arrived back home, there was snow on the ground, a chill in the air, and signs that winter had settled in for a long stay. A week and a half later when I left for Florida for Christmas, it was -3, and the Bears were scheduled to play the Packers that night at Soldiers Field. My return was greeted with a 40 degree day, sunshine and blue skies. It seemed as if we were getting a rather late and rather chilly "Indian summer."
Then the whole thing tanked. While we had quite a bit of sun in January, the temperature never really got that high. It probably stayed mostly in the single digits or teens, reaching the twenties maybe a few times. Maybe. It snowed, and snowed, and snowed, never all that much each time, but it's piled up and the damage to the streets (some of which were never really fixed last year) only became evident when the city plows went through. The snow was pretty, at first. White, fresh, glistening. Only we all know snow doesn't stay that way very long. It turns off-white, then dusty white, then contains streaks of black (and perhaps even yellow) and finally turns into a dirty mess on the side of the roads and walks.
Today, most of that changes. Today, the temperatures are enough to melt most of the snow. Today we can see green peeping through. Oh, sure, there is still dirt. What landed on the snow now lands on the sidewalks and streets as the snow melts. And everything is wet, puddles everywhere. But the sun is out, the temperature is 58. It feels like spring is coming.
I know it's just February, and early February at that. But we've turned the corner, so to speak. The sun is higher, it's at a better angle for the Northern Hemisphere to get the light and warmth. The melting snow gives us the promise of something better to come, even if it's probably a couple months away. We've made it through the worst of it, our minds tell us. We've made it through the bone-chilling cold days of January, the month that seems to go on forever. We've made it through the days that come and go without hope, without promise. We're on the other side of that hill now, still with a ways to go, but past the roughest parts. And we know that for a fact. This coming week, pitchers and catchers report to spring training. It's that yearly sign that we're over the hump, past the worst winter can throw at us, on the downward slope of that nasty pile of snow going toward spring.
Yes, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. It needs a few good rains to clean up the crud, but it's coming, sooner than we think, when the dream begins again, and a young woman's fancy turns to baseball once more.
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