Monday, April 29, 2013

"Perfessor, can we have class outside today?" Curmudgeon reminisces

February, March, and (until now) April have been so miserable in Chicago -- cold, wet, gloomy -- culminating just a week or so ago in massive flooding -- that all memory of the unusually warm January we enjoyed in these parts has been erased.

Unless you're one of the unhappy people whose home was trashed by the overflowing Des Plaines River, today, however, almost makes up for what we've been through around here recently.

What a gorgeous morning in Chicago: The air is clear, the buildings downtown stand out against the sky in sharp 3-D relief (too often, recently, the skyline has looked like buildings simply painted on a gray mist-colored scrim). The forsythia have bet that this little Spring-let is the real deal; they are in full yellow bloom this morning. The lilac buds are beginning to swell. The grass has gone from brown to green overnight. There may even be places (one or two) in our yard that could already benefit from the lawnmower. I hung out a small load of laundry on the line to dry this morning before getting on the train to go to work.

And as I was standing in the backyard this morning, squinting into the rising Sun as I hung out my clothes, I couldn't help but think what my college self would have thought on a breathtaking morning like this. "Perfessor," I would say (no, I don't know where the mispronunciation comes from either), "can we have class outside today?" I might not have been the first to ask. And I certainly would not have been the only one pleading. Cabin fever is just as real at 20 as at 56.

And, because of that, sometimes our pleas actually worked, back in the day. We'd all troop outside and sit in the grass and listen to the professor try and keep his train of thought as the warmth of the long-delayed Spring began to settle into his or her bones, too. I can't remember a single specific occasion this morning; I know there can't have been many. I know we asked far more often than we received.

Youngest Son is the only one in college these days. But he can't really ask his professors to hold class outside today. He has finals beginning at the end of this week. A lot of colleges, even here in the frigid Midwest, have finals now.

When I was in undergrad, our academic year lingered into the second week of June one year. If we got out in May at all it was closer to Memorial Day than to the Workers' Holiday. There was time enough for even the most tardy Spring to put in some sort of appearance before we were released from our academic confinement. There were opportunities to ask if we could hold class outside. There were sufficient opportunities to allow us to catch a professor in a weak moment and secure an hour of instruction in the sunshine.

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