As I was driving to my new home in the Berkshires last week I passed forsythia in bloom. My first spring in the Berkshires was in 1994. It had been a long, cold winter for which I was unprepared. In spite of the fact that my family had given me a "cold weather basket" filled with wool socks and silk underwear and an electric mattress warmer, I was always cold!
When April came I was disappointed that there were no forsythia. Where I grew up in the Bronx, New York, our local park was a former reservoir and the slopes were planted entirely with forsythia. Each year they burst into a huge oval of brilliant yellow. Along with the first robin, I looked for these blossoms to signal the arrival of spring.
It turns out there were forsythia in the Berkshires, but they bloomed much later, as did lilacs and all the other flowers I associated with April. I realized then that the poem mourning the assassination of Lincoln, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed," was only written because Walt Whitman lived in Washington D.C. at the time. Had he lived in the Berkshires we might be reciting a poem about melting snow.
On the Eastern Shore of Maryland where I live now, blossoms have been gone for weeks, but the Berkshires were in full bloom when I arrived. I bought my house when there was still snow on the ground, so I was thrilled to discover a gorgeous flowering tree right in front of my house - creating a spectacular view from my bedroom window.
While I was traveling to the Berkshires, my niece was graduating from Shenandoah University. It took her 11 years, but she earned her Bachelor's Degree, Cum Laude. The stage of life we think of as primarily for adolescents and young adults, was for her, deferred until her 30's. People have seasons in their lives, and they too can differ from from any "norm" we may be used to.
Early in my career I taught a course called "Life, Career and Education Planning" at Rockland Community College. We used adult development theory to help students gain an academic perspective on the psycho-social stages of their lives and the challenges that came with each of them. At that time, in the early 80's, adult development theory really meant male development theory and more specifically elite white male development theory. The learning for my students was that their lives, which usually did not chronologically match any of the stages we read about, weren't "deviant." They were just different. As is typical of community colleges, my students were working adults and women who had been stay-at-home moms for many years. They were in their 30's and 40's, not teens and twenties. A class full of students following a path that differed from the book, was, I told them, evidence that the book was wrong.
Had I grown up in the Berkshires, perhaps I would have thought spring in New York City or Washington DC was "early."