The Real Sign Of Spring

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No matter how “mild” a winter we get on Long Island, once March rolls around, people start looking for their favorite signs that spring is just around the corner. In my book, the calendar is irrelevant and as long as it gets below freezing, it’s still winter.

We don’t have to actually get five snowstorms or 18 inches of snow to know that we just hate walking out the door from our nice warm house into cold, blowing wind. I often wonder how people in Wisconsin survive day after day. There is no rationale for enjoying sub-zero temperatures, and for all of you that love the winter and snow, please stop reading and leave the rest of us alone.

Not everyone loves winter here on Long Island and not everyone can be a “snowbird”, escaping from November to April. Is there really any sane person that would trade 80 degree weather, sunshine, tropical drinks with little umbrellas, and sand between their toes for 10 degrees, accumulating snow, blizzard warnings, and road salt stuck to everything?

There is a fine line between packing up the boots, heavy coats, hats and gloves and waiting for March to finally go out like a lamb. But at least when we get to March, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And that tunnel, for most people, is filled with their own personal signs. We all have mental triggers that let us know winter is behind us and spring is on the way.

Sports fans have always used the start of spring training to begin the mental countdown to Opening Day of the baseball season and those April flowers.

Nature lovers point to the appearance of the crocuses when we get a few days of warm weather in a row. There is nothing like seeing those little flowers popping up.

Others pay way too much attention to Punxsutawney Phil and the nebulous four or six week prediction for the start of spring, which either way, starts in March.

Things like Easter, Passover or Spring Break can’t be counted on because they are all over the calendar and not a static date.

And then there is the opening of Ralph’s Famous Ices on Park Blvd, that little piece of heaven that closes in November and reopens every March. Ralph’s is the snowbird of businesses.

Please don’t take this as an insult to Carvel, which has no equal when it comes to soft serve ice cream, but they are open all year long. On Park Boulevard, there is enough to go around with both of these establishments about 100 yards or so from each other.

Granted, you can also get soft serve ice cream and sundaes at Ralph’s, but every business does something special and at Ralph’s, it’s the ices that do it for me.

Winter begins, for me, when that little hand-made sign in the window gets taped up saying “See You In The Spring!” Maybe it’s the finality of it all, but it makes me sad knowing that hats, gloves and boots are looming on the horizon. But hope springs eternal when you see the “Opening March 1” sign appear while you are sloshing through the muck, coming out of Hug-A-Pup. You know it’s almost here now!

Your mind drifts to those hot, humid evenings on the horizon. You can see yourself, after a nice meal at The Good Life (and a couple of drinks) sashaying down the block to Ralph’s, looking up at a massive amount of flavors and choices, trying hard to avoid mundane ones like lemon or strawberry. How can you not go for cotton candy or peanut butter and jelly? If you can’t make up your mind, you can order a nice combination with scoops of both cantaloupe and watermelon.

Tell you what; I’ll trade a freakish April snow storm for just knowing that Ralph’s is open. That’s my signal spring is right around the corner.

Did I mention they have peanut butter and jelly ices? Maybe I’ll bring an extra home for the dog.

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