How I knew spring came each year.

Growing up, I could always tell when spring had arrived. And it wasn't because of the leaves on the trees or anything like that. I was picked up and dropped off at the same bus stop for most of my childhood, about nine years of it. I remember when the sunrise first became something to be liked. I was probably twelve, standing at the bus stop at 6:30am by the steel street-sign pole, and I remember thinking that it was romantic to watch a sunrise. Then two yellow buses rumbled by and the moment was over. These first ones were not to be boarded because one was for the public school and the other was a shorter bus used to pick up children who had disabilities and could not board the other type of bus. I was supposed to wait for the private school bus.

This was also the corner where we had lemonade stands as kids. We went all out, making big signs and providing Kool-aid and lemonade along with the occasional batch of cookies. It was served in Dixie cups of course. The neighbors were always very generous, and we made out with eleven dollars once. This also happened when we sold dandelions door-to-door. Now, when I see kids down at the corner, I always try and buy some lemonade. Support the cause. Part of growing up I think.

Some mornings, after spending too long fishing the raisins around in my oatmeal while watching Arthur, I was late for the bus. I ended up running down the street, my wet hair sticking to my cheek and my lunchbox flailing from my side, in order to make the bus on time. Some years the bus driver was grumpy and scolded me thoroughly, and some years he or she was nice and patiently nodded when I apologized.

It was in the afternoon when I could actually tell that the springs had come. Walking heel-to-toe, or singing (I sang a lot), I mostly concentrated on how I was about to get out of my plaid jumper/skirt/etc. (we wore uniforms) and the snack that awaited me inside as I walked the three hundred feet to my house. Each and every spring (before spring had arrived officially), without fail, there was always a smattering of Styrofoam peanuts piled along the part of the street that curved toward our house. And this was how I knew. Spring had officially come once the peanuts were there. Looking back on it now, I wonder if one of the neighbors simply received something annually in the mail and was just careless with their unpacking.

One year, when I was a bit older and more suspicious of strange things that I had believed in as a child, spring came late. It was mid-April before it stopped snowing, and I figured that there couldn't possibly be any Styrofoam peanuts to announce that spring had arrived by that point. But one afternoon, as I rounded the bend, there they were, lying in their terrific state, and all the magic came back. I still wonder how they were there, even so late in the month. The peanuts were always comforting to me. I remember thinking each year, "It's the peanuts. I knew they'd be here. Spring is coming!" It was always a hopeful time.

Sometimes I still look for them, if I happen to be home from college in late March or early April. I think I've missed them the last several years. But I've been going on walks more lately. So Spring Peanuts 2012, I plan on you. Then I will know it is spring for real.