When the Days Change

Dylan Wyatt

The first day of spring always comes out of nowhere. It awakens a dormant part of me. It reminds me of childhood joy. After months of cold winter days, dreary skies full of gray clouds, cars covered in a sheen of frost, the sudden warmth and sunny sky delivers a shock to my system. Out of the blue, with little premonition beforehand, one day just feels different.

The first day of spring. I am not necessarily referring to the day marked on calendars, underneath a picture of a breathtaking landscape or beagle puppies playing on a farm. The position of the earth, moon, and stars predestines that day. The idea of spring can’t be decided. It appears in the moment. Everyone experiences it a little differently, at a different time, for a different reason. Even after years of cycling the seasons, that first feeling of spring still returns to me every year, like a dog after it escapes and rambles around a little, like waking up on a Saturday morning, giving me renewed strength and hope, reminding me of fond memories of days gone by, blinked away, and lost to time.

When I think of a spring day—fluffy clouds floating in a sky of blue like stars stitched on Old Glory—tall oak trees swaying in the cooling breeze—dandelion puffs flying by in the air—I remember being a little kid and playing baseball in the backyard with my dad. 

When I turned eight, my dad bought me a Rawlings mitt from the local sporting goods store. While other parents saved money by going to Walmart or a garage sale, my dad insisted on paying the extra money for a brand new, higher quality piece of equipment. It was one of the few instances my frugally-minded father opted for the more expensive item. He took baseball seriously. It was more than a game. It was his life.

Growing up, my dad spent all his free time playing ball, set state records in Little League, and dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues. He was talented enough to make it. As a kid, I idolized him. He was Superman. He was Sherlock Holmes. He was George Washington. I aspired to be half the man he was.

As soon as he put that first glove on my hand in the store, I dreamed of following in the family tradition. I imagined making diving catches. I fantasized about slowly rounding the bases while the opposing pitcher looked down at the ground, disappointed in himself, and the other players waited for me to reach home plate. When I went home that night, I told my dad, “I’m not taking this off, ever.” I left it on all day, and when I woke up the next morning, it was still on my hand.

The next day, I waited patiently for my dad to come home from work. All I wanted to do was play catch, break-in my new glove, and start my journey to becoming just like my dad. All day, my mom said he would probably be too tired when he got home. He walked in the door wearing a sweat-drenched t-shirt; his face looked worn and tired from a long, labored day. I asked anyway, expecting to be turned down. He looked at me with his droopy, bloodshot eyes and said, to my gawking surprise, “Sure, buddy. Grab your glove.”

A few weeks later, I stepped foot on a baseball diamond for the first time. My heart was pounding in my chest. It was a blisteringly warm April day. The air smelled crisper than usual, saturated with humidity. The grass sparkled with dew in the early morning light. In the bright blue sky, the sun already beamed down with ferocious intensity. We walked to the batter’s box, my dad carrying my equipment bag on his shoulder. I already had my glove on.

When we got to home plate, he looked at me and said, “We’re going to practice ground balls. Go out to the baseline and I’ll hit it to you.” I jogged out to the dusty, brown dirt between first and second base. My legs wobbled uncontrollably with excitement and nervousness. I had been daydreaming about this moment for weeks, but now, standing there, waiting for a ball to come my way, I had no idea what was going to happen. The ball could bounce over my outstretched hand; I might make the catch but throw the ball in the ground. I worried about embarrassing myself, but as soon as I looked at the big, wide smile on my dad’s face as he spun a ball around in his hand, all my fears vanished.

Every year, when I walk outside for the first taste of fresh air on a day in March or April, I wait to see if those old familiar feelings return. I let the air sit in my senses for a little while, searching for the right smells and tastes. I look up at the sky to see if the clouds have lost their dark gloom. I sit down on the grass and wait for childhood memories to flood my mind. Only then do I know with certainty that Spring has arrived.