Crunching through the ice melt strewn on the sidewalk of my local gas/convenience store, I realized my travel mug was still lodged in it's place next to the driver's seat of my green Subaru Outback.
Returning to the car to fetch the cup, raindrops the size of alligator tears stung the the base of my neck and ran icy trails between my shoulder blades. Pushing my sopping hair out of my face, I once again chastised myself for forgetting my hat. Being a newcomer to the cold north was no longer an excuse. We're into our 5th year here in Central New York, and I knew well enough what to expect in terms of weather.
Except in March.
The old cliche of lions and lambs is pure understatement some years, and this year is no exception. Fooling us all with balmy temperatures and sunny, azure skies, February cloaked it's thundering potential in light breezes, sunny skies, and balmy temperatures, lulling everyone with it's false promises.
And then came March.
Because I tend to be slightly absentminded on a good day, I take pains to organize myself nightly. I gather various small items: socks, hair bands, earrings, and clean chef coats. The fact that I have to lay out the uniform I wear to work should clearly illustrate how slippery my intellect can be. As I tidy away the dinner dishes at night and store leftovers, I stage my clean Contigo travel mug under the magic spout of my elderly Kurig, and pop in an admittedly unsustainable plastic pod of whatever K-cup coffee was on sale that week. Just a few small functions of a normal work night. So organized am I at times, I forget about the forgetfulness and imagine I've got the mind of a steel trap.
Then March happens. Capricious to the day, March flaunts itself; at times light as a downy feather, at times a petulant child. Even professional meteorologists convey the March weather report with incredulity at times. Whole strings of forecast days can be incorrect during this time of year, or can be correct in their accuracy, but unbelievable in their content. It's maddening for scientists, I'm sure.
Retrieving the forgotten travel mug, I dashed into the convenience store, shoulders hunched and cursing the obnoxious weather.
"I hear you can make a down payment on a casket" came a disembodied voice from behind a rack of Doritos.
The unexpected declaration turned my grumpy scowl into an amused grin, even before my first sniff of coffee. I filled my tall cup with French vanilla out of the air pot on the counter, and finished it with sugar and milk, all the while surreptitiously enjoying the banter of 4 retired farmers, wedged like sardines into the single formica booth provided for customers, of which the Doritos voice was a member.
"Aww, you don't know what you're talkin' about!" returned another.
"Hey, here comes the big shot! He's got the answer, sure he does!" Another older man swung through the door to an explosion of raucous commentary from the current gallery.
(Keep in mind, this is all happening at 5:25 in the morning.)
"Whatever they're drinking," I thought, "I want some." realizing simultaneously that what they were drinking was nothing more than black coffee cut with a bit of old-time friendship, humor, and optimism- perhaps sweetened with a peaceful night's sleep. Regardless, without knowing it, they'd sprinkled the sugar of assurance on my fickle, forgetful March morning. The older gents knew spring was coming, and paid no mind to the wayward nature of what amounted to a handful of days.
Pushing the door open on the return to my waiting car, I heard one of the men call to his friends, "Hey! I saw a bunch of blackbirds yesterday! Blackbirds are a sign of SPRING!" They all cheered. I couldn't suppress a laugh.
Blackbirds or not, he was right. March was full of blackbirds, temperamental, unpredictable, flighty blackbirds. And it was a sign of spring!