I stand on my deck, and through still, naked branches I see an ice-encrusted pond. It's watery around the edges, but it will take a few more 60-degree days and above-freezing nights before the onset of spring is more than just a date on the calendar.

The forecast this week is for November weather, but last Sunday the sun was out. It was warm enough that I broke a sweat playing Wiffle ball with my boys, launching parabolic flies into an endless April sky. I know winter is truly waning when that last mound of dirty snow by my front porch reveals the newspaper that wasn't delivered in February, and I get the urge to fire up the grill.

My childhood memories of backyard grilling are all about the pyrotechnics. My mother carefully crafted the perfect pile of charcoal, doused it with lighter fluid, tossed on a lit match, and whoosh | the flames shot high enough to ignite the ancient pine tree adjacent to the back porch but, much to my disappointment, never did.

In college, my roommates and I bought a hibachi we found in a grocery store aisle next to beach umbrellas and folding chairs. I can still taste the burgers we grilled on that thing, and I see the ashes they left on the corners of our mouths.

I spent an entire day putting together the first real grill I bought as a homeowner. I don't do directions, especially the kind that come with diagrams. When I'd finally attached the propane tank and was ready to push the little red button, I suddenly became very religious.

I was living one of those movie scenes in which the ace detective has 10 seconds to defuse the bomb, and can't figure out if he should cut the green wire or the red one. I released the gas, pushed the button, and an even flame engulfed the inside of the grill. I went inside, changed my underwear, and vowed never to assemble one of those things again.

My wife, Betty, and I just finished paying for the grill we bought last spring, and the investment was worth it. It came fully assembled with three burners and a temperature gauge. I no longer have to guess when it's time to throw on the meat or fish, and the igniter has yet to fail me. I've singed many an eyebrow, as well as forearm hair, lighting a faulty gas grill with a match.

An Atlantic salmon filet opened this year's grilling season. In the coming months, I'll do burgers, chicken, corn, even asparagus. But the first time I remove the water-stained cover and open an imported beverage is the best.

When I hear the squeals of the neighborhood kids no longer cooped up inside, and the muffled whoosh of the evenly distributed flame, I know that winter is almost behind me.



John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead. His column appears Wednesdays in the Derry News.

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