Just like events and people in the annals of history, our personal legacy goes through critical transitions and interpretation. For reasons I can’t explain Spring has been a time through my personal history when my mind finds its highest efficiency. There is no hedging the fact that The Covid Pandemic and our manipulative government gave us all a chance to reconfigure our priorities over the last two bizarre years. On the down side, Covid 19 stole the headlines, as well as the countries attention the last few years. Covid stifled our children, killed our elderly, made us completely lose our confidence in the main stream media, and went a long way to destroying the trust that the American people have for any government institutions. But this spring America is more than ready to put covid in the rear view mirror and appreciate the enchantment they remember from the spring times of yesterday. There are very few who came of age in the northeast that don’t relish the majesty of April May, and June. We hear the sounds of mowing machines, the click of a Titleist golf ball colliding with the head of giant driving club, and birds serenading our waking morning hours with sweet songs. After the shut downs, school closings, athletic events cancelled, people working from home, and overall restrictions, this Spring represents a new beginning. While I am busy vaulting ahead, to an adjusted tune and beat, I like to reminisce back to the times when springs were full of eternal hope. Every single dramatic and transitional time of my life have songs whose lyrics stimulate me to re-visit the old friends and memories of my history.
April Come She Will: (Simon and Garfunkel) “April come she will, When streams are ripe and swelled with rain. May, she will stay resting in my arms again.”
Last Sunday standing on my back porch, working the grill, I had a good view of the golf course through the still leafless saplings. All the signs of spring were right in front of me and for the first time in a couple of years I was ready to soak it in. We all have reflections from our past that make spring both inspirational and magical. Tis the season that never fails to give us unconditional hope despite the fact that we have lived through more than one disappointing summer. When the cold winds of March have subsided even the strongest of pessimists has hope, everybody is undefeated and improved. We feel the stability of being in a place where our dreams have not yet bumped into reality. No matter how bad the crash was in the prior months we hold on to a strong belief that our scars are healing, and that this summer will repress the wounds of all that has gone before. In the spring we are treated with the anticipation that goes along with preparing for opportunities the summer has in store for us. Most of us get off on the expectations of what is ahead more than what actually is going to come to attrition. The springs of my youth were filled with; baseball and golf, studying for exams, being a teacher, and facing all the highs and lows which go along with the romantic pursuit of the opposite sex. Shakespeare wrote “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” For me, spring represents new beginnings, a chance for renewal and redemption. Spring is a time for stepping out, for finding a new stride that you’ve been working on while the competition hibernates.
Betcha By Golly Wow: (Stylistics ) “Never thought that fairy tales come true, but they come true when I’m near you.”
When spring is in the air love cannot be far behind. An old friend of mine, who nicknamed himself, ‘Dr. Love’ had an explanation. “I wanted to get my doctorate in a field that was unexplainable.” For a moment in the spring of 1972 I thought I, had both, discovered and conquered love. Kristen Grant’s family moved to New Paltz in 1969 and by the time we were both in the same sixth grade class at the New Paltz Campus School a romance had begin to bud. I had been smitten with her from the first day she stepped onto my school bus. By the spring of my twelfth year on earth any lust I had been contemplating was now all about love. Our first date found us on an April Friday night at a make-shift amusement park that was set up in the Barkers Mall parking lot. Two kids, walking hand in hand dodging the carnival barkers on their way to the top of the ferris wheel. That same year after I was the star pitcher for the Senators of the New Paltz Little League. On the night of the championship game with the Red Sox I noticed Kristen sitting on the hill taking in the game. What could be better than a May day on the mound winning titles with your girl looking on. The Senators hung on for a 7-4 victory, and afterwards me and my girl went for a walk before the presentations of trophies. “I am breaking up with you, Kyle Peterson is taking me to the movies Friday. You’re a good friend Rich, let’s hold on to that.” The tears were falling on my trophy on the car ride home with my mom. “What’s wrong Richie, happy tears?” I nodded, but we both knew it was a lie.
Baker Street: (Gerry Rafferty) “He’s got this dream about buying some land, he’s going to give up the booze and the one night stands.”
Frank Sinatra never wrote a lyric, but man could he deliver one. “Riding high in April and shot down in May,” that might have been the appropriate words for my life in the spring of 72, but ten years later the spring was setting me up for the adult I wanted to become. I had been through a challenging, yet rewarding, year in the the final season of my collegiate basketball career. I was injured in the autumn and was faced to come back to a new coach who did not have a plan for me. In the course of battling in basketball arenas throughout the winter I discovered a different person developing within me. A person who wanted to throw away all shelter and fight for what was mine. In the spring of 1982 I was starting to understand all the nuisances that went along transitioning from child to man. My life was coming into focus, not unlike the recent day standing on my back porch. I was committed to being a history teacher and a basketball coach. Standing in front of my classes as a student teacher at Allentown High School I was confident I had found my calling. I was a master teacher in the making. Somewhere imbedded in my DNA I am a teacher and I was experiencing all the intrinsic rewards that go along with being pied piper of the public school hallways. It had taken me till my senior year at Muhlenberg but finally I embraced the concept of being a fraternity brother, partaking fully in the social activities that go along with Greek life. I was financially impaired (could have cared less about money), I had no job waiting for me in the fall, and I was single, yet never had I been more assured about my future. That spring of 1982 the world was my oyster and all that I could see in front of me were endless summers.
“Steppin’ Out”: (Joe Jackson) “We are young but getting old before our time”
In the spring of 1985 I had completed my third year at Pine Bush High as the the J.V. basketball coach and 11th grade history teacher. From day one I loved everything about Pine Bush. And for my first three years, Pine Bush loved Rich Siegel. During this time period I was awarded tenure for my efforts in the classroom. Right around the same time my High School Alma Mater, New Paltz, expressed interest in me being their varsity basketball coach. That spring I took a few Friday ‘Personal days’ that included full days of golfing and partying on the road. It was the first Friday in May of 1985 as I stepped out of an Armonk N.Y. steakhouse at about 8:00pm after a great day golfing in the sun, a few pops of suds, and a solid meal. Stepping out of the shaded ambiance of a fine dining establishment I was expecting the weather to still be damp and dark. To my astonishment the bright warm sun hit my face and I recall saying to myself, “I am going to write about this moment some day.” It felt as if I had stolen spring, at least a few hours, from the grip of winter. I had a nice buzz going and was bubbling with the excitement that the night hadn’t even gotten started. “Let’s head back to New Paltz and get a day-cap at P and G’s,” I said laughingly to my traveling partner. By 11:00pm I had found my way uptown to Joe’s East West where occasionally I would be fueled with enough alcohol to cut some rug. At the bar getting a club soda was a tall beautiful blond who I had never met but she looked familiar. ‘Do you want to dance?’ saying words that didn’t usually come out of my mouth. The blond and I walked towards the flashing lights in silence. I didn’t see her again for five months until she showed up in the gym to pick up her brother from basketball practice. Four years later Donna S. Burnham changed her name to Donna Siegel.
Pieces of April: (Three Dog Night) “We stood on the crest of summer Beneath an old oak that blossomed green”
In so many ways the seasons are metaphoric to the life we live. If we’re clever in our reality I believe it’s possible to embrace all four seasons with the spirit of spring. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall collide into each other seemingly faster and faster with each passing year. I like to think of myself as one of the original boys of summer, but on closer self-examination I find it was in Spring that I discovered my best self. My energy and emotions have always been far more intense with the renewal of spring and a chance to start over. If there is a fearless season, one lacking regret, and filled with promise, surely Spring would be swimming in lane four. Spring brings us more heat and light creating a propensity for us to loosen our step and attire (“Spring Fever.”) The fever of love, attachment, commitment, and spirituality were in full bloom during those special Springs of my youth. April transports me back to lighter times of green grass and ballfields. It ushers back memories, and the moments that we will find comfort in as we make the turn for home. When I am alone at the typewriter, or driving the glorious mountain roads of the Hudson Valley the music of my lifetime echos around me. My days as a “front man” for the band ended the second my mouth opened, still, I sing the words with the same passion of the smooth crooners. As the words come out the visions join them. I find myself in places I haven’t been in decades. Places where forgotten friends have a way of showing up. The songs are the codes that open the doors of my soul. In the spring of 2022 the words continue to spin in my head often tumbling to a new perspective. All I need to do is hear the song. Somewhere in the first three or four notes I have the code that unlocks the story.