They shed clothes, for one thing. Last week I saw so many pale pairs of legs I thought I was at the Ballet. Any minute now, sunburns will start to show, along with the permanent tans of the boat lovers, whose shins gleam winter and summer with the same shiny brown you see on a horse chestnut.
And the shedding of clothes is hardly the end of it. Come the warm weather, folks also begin stepping outside their normal pathways.
I know I did this one spring day when, still enough of a baby to be in training pants, I took a small Bible from the bookshelf and headed down the street to church. Adventure! was all I thought. But oh what earnest teaching I was subjected to after by the many grownups in our house, who could only pray that I had learned my lesson.
I hadn’t: Three months later, with my mom watching me through the kitchen window as she fixed me a snack, I sat in the sandbox of our fenced-in yard.
I was right there – until suddenly I wasn’t. And then followed the running around and calling my name, the searching and the summoning of police.
All I remember is how happy I felt, toddling in my little yellow sunsuit with the ruffly-bottom seat, on up Charlotte Street to Blue Hill Avenue, then across McClellan, to arrive at last at the Endicott School.
My sister wasn’t there in the schoolyard of course, nor was any child.
Recess was over, and when I turned for home I grew confused and toddled on past not only my own street but eight or ten streets more.
Back home, meanwhile, the drama kept unfurling, as a policeman ascended our steps lugging somebody else’s bellowing child (who of course was bellowing, since she knew very well that she didn’t live there.)
When my family finally found me, I was eating ice cream and holding onto the baby-laden stroller of a young mother from Eastern Europe, who spoke no more a recognizable brand of English than I did.
But really this is no big story. This is just what people do when the air is soft and the daylight feels unending: They go on walkabout.
I see it in my own town.
A few days back, at schoolday’s end, I watched as an eight-year-old dashed out of the brick fortress that had held him all day and danced on down the sidewalk, executing a perfect penguin impression as he tilted from side to side, his hands jammed down into the sides of his pants.
And that was nothing compared with what I witnessed the following day, when three middle-school girls, who had been awaiting the “Walk” light to help them cross the street, started out into the busy intersection.
Two of them, bearing backpacks, sailed across, as stately as a couple of swans.
The third, free of backpack and stateliness both, got herself right into the middle of intersection – where, with traffic from five different streets stopped, she hopped twice and executed a perfect cartwheel, right there on the asphalt.
If we hadn’t all been strapped in our cars, I think every last motorist would have given her a standing ovation. I know I yearned to.
I yearn to salute all signs of high spirits. I yearn to applaud every length of limb on display.
And sometimes – ah sometimes! – I do yearn to go back to the time of that little ruffly-bottomed sunsuit.