Ask Me a Question and I’ll Tell You a Story Challenge (1)
“What’s so good about spring?”
When your younger sister asks, you don’t tell her that you don’t know; you find something. If there’s literally nothing you like about it, you force yourself to enjoy one thing because you know that having your younger siblings grow up to be as miserable as you is the last thing that you would wish on them, your mother, or the world at large. So pick something.
“What’s so good about spring? …Is that a serious question?” Or stall, I guess… but rack your brain, just in case.
Your sister blinks at you– once, twice– and and tilts her head before blinking again. Why is she such a cartoon character? “Uh…”
“There’s plenty good about spring. I mean don’t you like flowers?”
“You don’t like them. You threw them away last time.”
“But you like them. You don’t have to hate stuff just because I can’t deal with it, and– for your information– those flowers were already dead.”
“I didn’t say I hate it,” she says. “I’m just not sure I like it.”
You roll your eyes, sigh. What is there to do with a kid like this? Why can’t she just grow up well and be happy? “You like it. You’re just being like this because you want to copy me, aren’t you? You like puddles and flowers and sunshine. You don’t like thunder, but you like that it gives you an excuse to climb into other people’s beds.” Don’t look at her when you say it. You don’t know how she’ll react and it might derail you. Do anything else.
What else is there to do? You keep talking, looking at the floor as you head into the living room, five-year-old feet hot on your heels. “Spring is right before your birthday and it is the best time to tell everyone what you want. Lots of baby animals are born. There aren’t too many school holidays so you can play with your school friends more. The sun comes up a little earlier every morning so you can have more Saturday morning adventures. What’s so bad about spring?” Now, somehow, even you feel better about it.
This is when inspiration strikes you. You grab a two jackets– one for you and one for her. Sure they’re both yours and you are going to have to roll the sleeves up for Megan to fit it, but it’s not that big a hassle and even if you regret it tomorrow or immediately this could become a good memory for her. Some of your best memories are thing your parents got scolded for or later wondered themselves what they were thinking…
“Go on,” you bait her looking for her tennis shoes. “Tell me what’s so bad about spring.”
You can hear her open her mouth before she speaks and the lack of sound that follows is how you know she’s hesitating. “Aren’t you allergic to it…?”
Now you throw her an amused look over your shoulder. “Sweetie, no one’s allergic to a season.” She looks confused as you give up on her wearing shoes. “I’m allergic to pollen which the flowers and trees like to throw into the air to get blown around and stuff, but I’m not allergic to spring itself. Spring is pretty.” You pause, trying to figure out how to give her a happy spring memory without shoes or you suddenly becoming too sick to be pleasant.
You’ll need keys.
“Grab your crayons and meet me in the hall, I’ll show you.”
You sneeze seven times instead of one to three like you do the rest of the year on your way out the door. It’s a bit difficult to cover your mouth with your sister on your back, but you manage and make it to the car before your eyes start watering for real. “Strap yourself in,” you tell her digging in your back pocket for folded up printer paper. You unfold it and hand it to her after she’s buckled. “So you already know, but outside and I don’t get along very well. But spring can still be felt inside if you’re intentional.”
You hear her mutter, “intentional” under her breath like she doesn’t want to forget it. You know she doesn’t know what it means, but you don’t volunteer the definition. “How? Justin says autumn is best understood outside and Justice is always going somewhere in the summer.”
“Justin is a nature boy and he likes getting hit in the face with wind, and Justice likes the sun. As brown as that girl is to start with she’s always getting a tan and only that much sunblock away from skin cancer. If you want to play outside, the twins are your people, but spring can be inside if you let it be.” You plug your AUX cord into your phone and Priscilla Ahn’s “Dream” starts up. This is what spring sounds like. You go to the drive through at Panera for over priced mac-n-cheese then to the parking lot of that one hospital so you can look out at the field where there will be strawberries next month and there are flowers planted around the building.
You tell her to draw and the playlist sings on even as the light changes and clouds move across the face of the sun. Hollyn’s “Love With Your Life” comes on and you pull back the thing that covers the sunroof so you can get more light and take your sister’s picture. She only notices when the shutter sound comes through the stereo. Your sister smiles, demands that you show her, and then looks thrilled.
“Take me again,” she says posing too much, but you roll your eyes and concede. Then you take “us-ies” with the flower crown filters and skip Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me” because you don’t want to cry in front of her today. You’re trying to make a certain type of memory. It starts to rain and you decide to record this sort of spring day in your book to remember. You include the clouds, the first drops of rain on the window, the scarf you’ve been wearing since before you decided to leave the house, and her smile.
If she could smile like this throughout the season, then maybe you could remember that in spite of the things Spring has taken from you in the dark, it gave you the promise of this child– your reason to smile.