The unusually severe cold has the season beginning a bit later than usual this year. The birds of spring began singing two weeks ago. There is still snow, yet the sun is higher in the sky, and we no longer eat dinner in the dark. The trees know it is time, the sap is in them, but the clouds and cold are slowing the process. So we set up and wait, for the sun to do it's handywork. The boys come in with cheeks flush and red ears of genuinely tired children after carrying buckets and covers clanging along roadsides and through groves most of this first warmish day.
Charlie is relaxed, without a hint of the anxiety that often travels just beneath his skin and in the creases in his forehead lately. His smile genuine and relaxed, and eyes bright and blue today. He is confident this year, taller, stronger, and he knows the routine. When his Uncle asks him to grab him a fitting or spigot, he knows to pull a handful from the pail and fill his pocket. He has heard the stories, threads and tales and now he is a part of that, and Joey too, both joking and working with the rest as if they'de been setting buckets longer than they have lived, it's in their blood.
For generations, grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents, brothers and cousins, generations of our family have looked forward to the first hint of spring that usually arrives weeks before the apple blossoms, robins or even the crocus known to poke itself up through a snowcover. Great grands gathered pails of sap on a route through the woods with a team of horses, and boiled sap with babies sleeping snug and warm below the arch till the wee hours of the night as they tended to the art of syrup making.
It is a busy season that keeps our minds off the dingy snow and cheerless muck that many lament this time of year. Quiet plunking will fade to silent bucket filling drops and clouds of smoke and sweet will billow from the sugar house. When I open the door I know I will be met with a smooth sweet smell of maple. The warm syrup will fill my tongue with an, almost, buttery sweetness, and candy will melt in my mouth. I picture Lila this year perched on the brown stool beside her Auntie and on her knees, stretched to watch the turning of the candy machine and filling of the molds. My sugar princess lives for maple candy.
When the business of sap collecting and syrup making is done the sun will be stronger, heating no-sleeved arms and coaxing buds out of branches. My children will be filled with stories old and new. They will be intertwined in them more tightly than the year before and the generations of our family will continue weaving the tradition of Sugaring. For now though. . .we wait.