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Springtim​e Is All About, Sunlight, Warmth and 'Frolicking'

May 28, 2009 By:
Mara Sokolsky, JE Feature
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It's been a cool spring so far in New England. Of course, that hasn't stopped the azaleas and dogwoods from bursting forth in all their splendor.

What a surprise, yet again, that the barren brown of winter can give forth to this riotous color. Though it follows the same pattern year after year after year, I'm still in a state of grateful wonderment as I watch the earth grow green and fragrant.

The word "springtime" has a nice ring to it, but so does friling, its Yiddish equivalent. Mordecai Gebirtig, a Yiddish poet and composer, begins one of his songs: Shpilt aykh, libe kinderlech -- Der friling shoyn bagint! "Play and enjoy yourselves, dear children, for spring has dawned!"

Oh, to be young race to the park at the first sign of spring. It's an innate reaction to head to luxuriate in it, especially after months of enforced hibernation.

For us Mid/Yids, it's not just a delight, but a necessity. Our aging bodies need every bit of vitamin D that the sun can bestow. And our spirits need the light.

Hulyet, hulyet kinderlech! Gebirtig writes in his song's refrain. Hulyet means "to frolic or carouse." How do we as Mid/Yids hulyet at this time of year?

It's more complicated for us than rushing to the park. We rush instead to a beach house or the mountains. This time of year signals a change in our tight schedules.

Who doesn't benefit from the spaciousness of a vacation as much as the feeling of the sun on our faces?

Our toes, stiffer than in our youth, are nonetheless thrilled to be liberated from shoes and given some wiggle room in sandals.

Perhaps, at our age, summer clothing is not primarily geared to showing off a tanned litheness.

Though many of us still have limbs worth revealing, it seems mostly about feeling lighter, letting our skin sense the air and adding our own happy profusion of colors to the already intoxicating mix.

Across the street from where I grew up, we were lucky to have a tree-lined playground. Once the warm weather hit, we children stayed out there as long as our mothers would allow.

The alte yidn -- "the old Jews" -- watched us from the benches. They sat heavily, these East European immigrants, who pinched our cheeks and occasionally gave us hard candies. They did not hulyet. They gossiped, philosophized and tilted their faces toward the sun. I wonder if watching us play brought back recollections of warm, fragrant afternoons of a vanished time and place.

Most memories have a season attached to them. Were we bundled up then in winter coats? Stretched out on the sand? Kicking away autumn leaves?

Out of Doors
Springtime memories usually take place out of doors. It's a time to flex our muscles and stretch our legs. Whatever juice we have in our veins is aching to do any Mid/Yid version of romping through the grass that our creaky bodies and sense of propriety will allow.

Gebirtig's verses -- as with many Yiddish songs -- have an undercurrent of sadness.

His full refrain goes like this: Hulyet, hulyet, kinderlech/Kol-zman ir zent yung/Vayl fun friling biz tsum vinter/Iz a katsn-shprung. "Frolic, frolic children, as long as you are young, for a stone's throw separates spring from winter."

Well, we know that. With each passing year, it rings more true.

Yet spring, when she bursts upon us, is not thinking about the future. She's focused on rebirth and renewal. She's concerned with flowering.

Unlike us, she is not moving toward a finite end, but toward infinite regeneration. And if we pay attention, we get to pocket some of that regeneration as we renew our sense of hopeful play, letting our spirits soar into the balmy air.

Mara Sokolsky is a freelance writer living in Providence, R.I. E-mail: [email protected].

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