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SANDY BANKS

A Weekend to Make Hay While the Sun Shines

March 14, 2000|SANDY BANKS

They were everywhere this weekend, riding bikes, bouncing basketballs, jumping rope in the streets . . . neighborhood children celebrating the return of the sun, like so many squiggly earthworms forced from their homes by weeks of rain.

My children and I were out there among them, desperate to soak up the good times promised by a rare burst of sunshine in a month of weekends marked by gray skies and rain.

We waved at neighbors we hadn't seen in ages, now on their knees digging in their yards or out riding bikes or walking their dogs. We navigated around clumps of frenetic kids, delirious at the prospect of freedom that had been denied them so long.

And I saw in the eyes of the mothers I passed that same mixture of weariness and relief that I'm sure they saw in mine.

Relief at this respite from slippery floors and smelly dogs and wet socks peeled from kids' shivering feet. And gratitude for a weekend, finally, that didn't need filling with board games and art projects, or trips to the mall, or a frantic search through the newspaper ads for a movie we have yet to see.

"How about 'Snow Day'? 'My Dog Skip'? Pretty good movies, huh? Wanna see them again?"

*

I remember my first winter in Southern California, when I approached every warm and sunny day with a sense of desperation, a frantic need to squeeze from it every possibility, before the sunshine faded to night.

I hung on the weather reports, set my alarm even on weekend days. And by the first sight of sun streaming through my windows, I would have worked myself into a frenzy, intent on plowing through my list of "fun" for the day. Bike rides, tennis games, gardening projects . . . the kind of recreation relegated to summer in my Ohio hometown.

It was a legacy, I guess, of a life spent in the Midwest, where winters could be counted on for cold and snow, an unbroken procession of dreariness that could keep us homebound for weeks on end.

It took years here for me to realize that these warm, sunny days are winter in Southern California, no less the exception than the rule. That I didn't have to hoard, or devour, each one; I could take them for granted, because more would come.

It was OK, I realized, to spend a sunny Sunday housebound, to pass the day reading the newspaper in bed, catching up on laundry or bills, watching a movie with the kids or a basketball game with friends.

I relaxed, accepted this embarrassment of riches as my due. The pressure to enjoy each day lifted, because I knew another would come along soon. I no longer felt like a prisoner of the calendar. These days were mine to enjoy; I could thumb my nose at the occasional rain.

But this year, as we edge toward spring, we have been bombarded with the reality that a month of weekends wiped out by rain can make sunny skies seem quite precious again.

*

I arose on Monday with stiff knees, a runny nose and aching shoulders, reminders of a weekend lived on the edge of extreme. Like sybarites denied pleasure for too long, we'd thrown moderation to the wind, my children and I.

We swam in a pool that was much too cold, rode bikes until our legs were sore, donned tank tops and sunscreen to take the dogs on a hike through a sun-soaked canyon still streaked with mud and dotted with puddles left by the rain.

We rushed from one activity to the next, pausing only long enough to marvel at the freshness of the air and the blue of the sky. We stayed outside until long after the warmth of the sun had faded, and it was after 10 when I finally tucked my kids into bed and past midnight when I bid the weekend adieu.

And just before I climbed into bed, I pulled back the shades and slid my window open and gazed out at my yard below. It was still littered with gardening tools, seed packets and fertilizer bags--remnants of an energetic burst of good intentions. But the sight of an empty watering can made me realize I'd left my chores half done.

I'd weeded and pruned and set plants in the ground, but in the frenzy of the day, I'd forgotten to give them the water they need.

And I found myself searching the night sky for clouds, half-hoping for another day of rain.

Sandy Banks' column is published on Sundays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is sandy.banks@latimes.com.

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