Our winter flag still hangs at the doorway. Bullwinkle Moose is pointing at a gray-blue sky. One oversized snowflake is falling toward his hand.
He points his finger at the lacy, fluffy object in astonishment.
We can go years before a snowflake dares enter the Piedmont. Though I have lived here for almost two decades, my once-Midwestern self is still a little amazed at that fact.
But during the opening months of 2010, we had winter storm warnings aplenty. Folks uncovered shovels buried in carport storage corners and garages - shovels that looked as brand-new as they did five years ago.
The rest of the nation was buried in snow so often that even the government had to shut down. Sometimes this winter I've thought Bullwinkle had no reason to look quite so amazed.
Last week, after I went out to retrieve the mail, I wondered if his expression was due to a different seasonal event. All around my mailbox, the daffodils in my flower beds have poked through the cold earth, despite what a dear friend has been calling "this crazy weather."
I consult with Ruth Kingberg pretty regularly about weather. She is in her eighties, has decades of experience living 'round here, and her predictions are absolutely on target. That's more than I can say of the Web sites my husband, Ralf, and I have consulted this winter.
"It's going to be a big one," Ruth will say, and I will believe her.
Of course, in the South, that means more than an inch of snow on the ground and every business closed for at least half a day. In the South, it means a run on enough milk and bread to last for a week.
(Lest you think I disparage such behavior, I should remind you, dear reader, that I remember the ice storm some years back that shut down power all over the Piedmont for, in some cases, nearly a week. It was, as Ruth might say, "a doozie.")
I walked outside the other day to look at the daffodils. In most years, I fear for their lives when they show their flowery faces. Though we can go a winter without snow, we almost never go a March without a blast of cold that knocks my daffodils off their delicately rooted feet.
After weeks of rain and skies so gray they fade every color the world has to offer, I long to see the yellows and pinks of spring. I hope the red tulips my neighbor, Bill Laughlin, planted many years ago will dot his flower beds, and his daffodils will feel free to compete with mine.
We all need the lightheartedness spring brings us. We need color again, and hope.
It's time to change my flag. Bullwinkle is on that one, too, cheerily holding a bouquet of daffodils in his four-fingered fist.
Spring. At last.