The school I attended as a child had no weeks of vacation between Christmas and March. I had little to look forward to except an occasional snow day or being home sick with a cold. Not that I liked being home sick—my mother was not one to allow me to “enjoy poor health” as she put it. This meant I was confined to bed without much to do and no pampering. The best I could expect was an opportunity to listen to the radio. Television didn’t arrive in our household until I was twelve. The winter days were dreary with school and homework. I didn’t like skiing and skating was no fun so I spent my free time indoors reading. The advent of spring at least meant I could spend more time outside.
There is a deceptively warm period in the first month of the year called the January thaw. It usually comes at the end of the month, but sometimes earlier. It is the opening note of a long prelude to spring. Sadly, it raises hopes too soon dashed. February sets in, the snow falls, the cold descends, and winter reminds us that we have a long way to go. The upside is that at least the days are longer and brighter as the sun grows stronger and shines from higher in the sky. The burgeoning light keeps us apprised of spring’s actual advent.
Expectations often create disappointment. However it is difficult to avoid having them. The anticipation that is the creator of my expectations is what happens when I yearn toward something that is just out or reach or even beyond my control, like spring. This habit begins in childhood. Once we outgrow the present moment mindset of our early years, we are vulnerable to it. For instance, when the circus was coming to town it was a big event in my young life. My grandmother always took me and every year I loved it.
The difficulty with anticipation, especially when one is an adult, is that it can suck the juice out of the actual event. A few years ago Stephen and I took a friend’s two children to a local circus in a town nearby. Based on my memories of Barnum and Bailey, I had unrealistic expectations of the little circus and did not enjoy it nearly as much as I would have otherwise. On the other hand the two children we took had a wonderful time. Unexpectedly, my enjoyment ended up being about that rather than about the performances.
Today in the news I saw that the circus of my childhood—Barnum and Bailey, will be no more. This may have started I suppose when they released the elephants and now they are disbanding completely. I wonder if those who like me once anticipated the arrival of the circus will be disappointed. I haven’t been to a Barnum and Bailey performance in many years myself, however I have my memories. Thankfully I can sip those memories whenever I wish. That’s the blessing of memories, like food in the pantry or the refrigerator they are available when I wish to reach for them. Memories of spring, however, cannot compare to its actual advent, and that I eagerly await.