In our neighborhood spring doesn't start when the lawns turn green or the birds build nests in the trees. Rather, spring starts once all the neighborhood kids start playing outside with each other.
During the cold Utah winters, kids tend to hole up inside. Sure, they still play with each other but it’s not in the same large groups that you see when the weather is warm. They play in groups of two or three, building Lego spaceships, playing with dolls, or honing their video game skills. But when the weather warms up, something changes. They flood outside eager to retake the neighborhood from the snow and cold.
The groups grow from two or three in size to five or more. There’s the notorious Gang of Curls—an assortment of 5- and 6-year old girls—who roam the neighborhood wearing princess dresses. The go from home to home, playing with dolls and other toys. Once the fun is done they move on to another home, leaving toys and teddy bears strewn all over the floor in their wake.
Then there’s the Spy Gang. At least I think that’s what they’re called. All know is that the large group of 7- to 9-year-old boys who take their toy spy equipment from their rooms, meet outside in the middle of the neighborhood, and disappear. Sometimes they spy on the Gang of Curls. Other times I catch a glimpse of them—or at least I think I do-- peaking at me as I sit on the porch and write. Other times they try to blend into the neighborhood scenery by playing basketball in the neighbor’s driveway. They’re a sneaky bunch.
Finally, there’s a collection of kids 4 and under who come out only under the supervision of at least one parent. They don’t tend to socialize in groups for very long. Usually they’re on their own learning to ride bikes or playing with toys on the sidewalk. You need to keep a close eye on these ones because they don’t have a problem wandering off on their own.
All these groups have been pretty much dormant since the first snow blanketed the ground at near the end of November. But all of that changed last night.
I pulled into the neighborhood and saw around 15 kids playing in the various homes on our end of the street. The Spy Gang was kicking a soccer ball, while the Gang of Curls rode bikes around the cul-de-sac. The younger kids wandered around playing with toys but mostly just enjoying the sun. Parents congregated in small groups, catching up with each other after spending the last four months indoors.
Instead of going inside like usual, it was nice to get out and socialize and watch the kids play. It was nice to feel the sun on my face and not feel like I had to wear a coat. It was nice to talk with neighbors and watch the kids run around.
Yeah, spring has finally arrived.