It's Spring, Finally

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It's been a terribly cold spring this year. Commentator Julie Zickefoose and her son Liam have both been on the lookout for something to keep their spirits up until the season truly arrives.


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Last week, we checked in with our resident bird expert and ALL THINGS CONSIDERED commentator, Julie Zickefoose, and she told us about how the frigid spring weather was affecting the bird population. She's a licensed bird rehabilitator in Whipple, Ohio. Well, it's finally warming up in Ohio and in other places across the nation, but the long winter has definitely been getting to Julie and her son Liam, as she realized when she saw a quiz he took recently.

JULIE ZICKEFOOSE: Every few days, my seven-year-old son Liam brings a folder home from his first-grade classroom stuffed with papers. I examine his drawings of rampaging dinosaurs, burning buildings, crashing planes, and tooth-gnashing sharks as if they hold the keys to his psychic kingdom. Though I love his essays, I find the quizzes really interesting. One was titled Needs and Wants. Each problem has a picture of two things, and the word need or want between the two picture choices. Draw a line from the word to the picture it goes with.

In the first problem, there's a bag of groceries, and another picture of a boy looking in a store window at a new ball, glove and bat. Hmm. Obviously, you need food, but you want the new ball glove. Liam has drawn a line from need to the bag of groceries, another line connecting want with the ball glove. Correct. Question two: a house and a teddy bear. Liam has connected need with the house and want with the toy. Got that one right too. Question three: a winter coat and a television.

A straight line connects need with the coat, and a shaky one runs from want to the television. There's a lot encoded in that wobbly line. Correct. Piece of cake. Question four has me completely stumped. On the left is a picture of a man reading a book to a child. On the right is a picture of a vase of flowers. Hold on a minute; are there trick questions on first-grade quizzes? Liam is being asked to choose between reading and flowers. He's supposed to need one and merely want the other.

Is there a right answer to this question? Do we need to read more than we need flowers? My gosh, this winter has been endless. About this time of year, I freely admit to needing flowers more than I need to read. As spring creeps on, dragging her dress through the cold slushy mud, I crave an armload of lilacs, a base of daffodils, a hyacinth in an almost unnatural way. In the grocery store, I head like a myopic bumblebee right for the floral department, my empty cart rattling before me.

I bring home pots of tiny daffodils and primroses, and even carnations, anything to break the sterile, gray olfactory silence of winter. When I pull them out of the sack, Liam buries his nose in them and crumples to the floor in a mock swoon. I study Liam's marks on the test paper, and with a sense of satisfaction and a spreading grin, I see that he shares my confusion. The paper is smudged with erasures. He's run a line from need to both the book and the flowers. And he's also connected want with both pictures. Right or wrong, that's my boy. He's ready for spring too.

NORRIS: Julie Zickefoose is an artist and writer. She lives with her two children and husband near Whipple, Ohio, where, by the way, it was about 70 degrees today. She's also the author of the book "Letters from Eden."

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