Day 11 of the February Flash Fiction Challenge. Today’s prompt is to write a story about a holiday. I didn’t really go with a holiday, per se, but rather the coming of spring, or the Spring Equinox, maybe my favorite time of the year. We haven’t reached spring here in San Diego quite yet (but, really, most of winter feels like spring to me). The mountains and hillsides come alive here when everything grows and blooms in the spring.
This story is pure fiction but it could happen any day now between me and my son.
I stare out the window of the car, watching the red trolley whoosh by, its horn blaring a dull warning.
“Is it winter?”
In front, my mom doesn’t answer. She’s pushing the buttons that make the sound come out of the speakers. I hear lots of noise, some fun music, and boring NPR. My parents always listen to NPR. They were so impressed when I learned how to tell Google to “Play NPR,” but now they just tell me, “Ok, that’s good, Ben, you don’t need to turn it on right now.”
“Is it winter?” I repeat, louder this time.
“What? Sorry, buddy, I’m trying to find something to listen to. Just a minute.”
“Is it winter?” I say it again after a few seconds that feel like hours to my 3-year-old brain. I still don’t really know the difference, especially when mom seems to use “minute” for everything.
“Ben, just a minute!” She finally finds something to listen to. KCRW, the usual. “Ok, what? Yes, it’s still winter.”
“Where’s the snow?”
“Well, we don’t have snow here, remember? We have to go into the mountains. Or go visit grandma in Minnesota.”
“But I want to see snow!”
“Yeah, me, too…” She sounds sad.
“Can we play in the snow?” I don’t understand why we can’t just go to grandma’s or the mountains.
“We get rain here. Sometimes.” This doesn’t help me understand why we can’t play in the snow. Doesn’t she know that I want to see snow?
I give up on the snow talk. I do like rain. It might be my favorite. “Did we get rain this time?” I already know the answer to this but I still like to hear my mom say it.
“Yes, don’t you remember? You got to run around in the rain a lot this winter! You got to test out your red rain jacket!” She says this with a lot of excitement but I’m not sure why.
“Mm-hmm,” I nod, turning to look out the window again. I don’t see as many buildings. “When’s it going to rain again?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can’t you ask Google?”
“Google isn’t here, sweetie. We’re in the car.” She sighs. “It’s getting warmer, it’s almost spring. Remember? We might not have any more rain this year.”
“Well, because we live in Southern California and it’s pretty dry most of the year.”
“Why do we live here?”
“Shoot!” she cries out. “I just missed my turn. Ben, I need to focus on driving.”
I have a lot of other questions about why she missed her turn and where we are going and why we have to drive and not walk and where all the buildings went and why it’s really hilly but before I can do so, my mom pulls into a dirt parking lot. It looks a little familiar. “Ok, you ready, bud?”
“Where are we?”
“Oh, Ben! Remember? We’re at the ecological reserve! Just you and me today!”
I look over at the baby’s car seat. It’s empty. I think she’s at home with dad but I can’t remember. “Is Penny with dad?”
“Yep!” My mom yells from somewhere behind the car. My door opens and she unlocks my straps and loosens them up. “Let’s go! Remember, we’re looking for spring!” I slowly make my way out of the car seat, trying to find footholds behind me as I descend to the ground, landing with an unsatisfying toe-heel stumble.
“Ready? Do you have your guide?” My mom’s already reaching past me into the car where I dropped it to the floor after we left the house. “Ok, let’s go look for spring! Just like Frog and Toad, remember?”
My mom’s idea of fun sometimes confuses me. I would rather be playing with Thomas the Train back home but when I see the big wide path I take off running. The ground is dusty and the bushes are tall and leafy. Manzanita, my mom calls them. I can smell something sweet and spicy and I hear soft bird calls. The sky is huge and there isn’t a cloud anywhere. All I want to do is run, run, run, and feel the wind blow my hair. I forget about my mom until I hear her calling my name.
I stop running and turn around to see her. Suddenly, something catches my eye. On the ground, just off the trail, bright orange flutters in the wind. “Hey, mom!” I yell.
“I’m right here, Ben, what—?” She stops by the orange flowers. “Hey, look! You found spring!” She points to the picture on the guide and then back at the flowers. “Those are poppies! Aren’t they pretty!”
I beam. Spring! But, I still want to play in the snow.