"It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"—Mark Twain
As I edge up the age ladder, the more sentimental I get. Old songs, romantic standards from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, make my eyes well up. Every photograph of my wife, my children, my parents, my brothers brings back a moment that is indelibly etched in memory. Every nostalgic encounter I experience is associated with a specific time of my life: a day here, a day there, a moment—images that seem to measure my life with an easy tempo, like the steady comfort of a metronome.
Everyone has a past, but it’s the passage of time that gives us the perspective to understand and value it. Our memories show us who we are and where we came from. They piece together life’s experiences and give our personal stories meaning.
Spring is my favorite season, the time of year that always brings a smile to my face. When I remember all those springtimes from a lifetime ago, the metronome quickens, and I can see that my life has gone by far too quickly, as quickly as snow melting after a long winter.
Spring will always be the college years in South Bend, Ind. with my girl, Margaret Mary Scanlan, now my wife of almost 50 years. In those days we walked everywhere—to movies, dinners, dances. No automobiles were allowed on the Notre Dame or St. Mary’s campuses, but distance didn’t feel like an obstacle back then. We were with one another, and that was all that mattered.
I can see it clearly: the green stubs of grass starting to show their heads across campus, the new bright buds on the maples arching over the Avenue and the two of us walking, holding hands, stealing a kiss now and then. When I left her at her dorm and headed back to the Notre Dame campus, the only thought in my mind was of when I would see her again.
Spring will always be hitching a ride in high school from the bus stop two miles away from home in the rural outskirts of Cincinnati. It was a long walk through the hills and open fields near our home off Section Road—just warm enough to take off your shirt, and the air was fresh and a little damp. I do not remember what I thought about on those odysseys. I suspect it was probably the shifting daydreams most 16-year olds have: part baseball, part escape from school, part mindless conjecture about tomorrow and the next day.
Spring will always be the smell of Mom’s pies cooling on the kitchen window sill or raking up the soggy leaves left under the melting snow. And it will be those images of my brothers carrying pile after pile of dark, damp leaves to a compost dump my dad used to fertilize his rose bushes.
Spring will always be the smell of the first magnolia blossoms in my parent’s backyard. It will be hosing winter salt and road dirt off the car—and then turning the hose on my brothers. It will be hitchhiking home for spring break from Notre Dame to Cincinnati, through the Indiana countryside with its early green patches, the last snow in tiny strips between the hills.
Spring will always be the memories of simple things, of new beginnings, of young love. This year, I want to remember all of that—and live it, too. I want this spring to be a season of renewal, of commitment to family, friends and community. Take some quality time to rethink and dissect your inner core. Take your foot off the accelerator and focus on those three things that, in retrospect, have been the driver in making our families and country so resilient.
Take control. Lead by example. In the final analysis, we are the only ones responsible for leading ourselves to a better tomorrow. Today, this moment in time, it’s more important than ever to capture this mindset. It’s time to be optimistic, to move forward, to believe again. It is time to make new commitments and new memories, and make them count.