Editor's note: Judging from all the phone calls and emails inquiring about why Page H. Onorato's columns have not been running during the past several weeks, readers will be happy to see her return today. She has been under the weather, but is well enough now to continue to inform and entertain Dispatch readers.

It’s here, finally, in spite of the occasional snowflake and nighttime temperatures flirting around with the 32-degree mark. I know that the season is here, not just because the calendar and the tube told me so, but because all five senses are on the alert. Here’s how we know that it’s springtime.

Sounds of spring are all around us. A chorus of backyard, woods and migratory birds awaken us early with the raucous music of their mating calls. The unmistakable thwack of baseball against bat echoes in the evening, followed by the roar of the crowd when another player crosses home plate. The church bells that signal the hour in our town sound sweeter in the spring; the shouts and hoots of children playing outdoors, the roar of lawnmowers cranking up in anticipation of another busy season — all tell us spring is here.

There’s a touch of spring everywhere: The warm sun upon your shoulders as you walk to the mailbox, the softness of a tiny baby bunny or kitten or puppy in your hand, the “Wash me” you draw on the yellow tree dust on your spouse’s car. Then there’s the infernal itch from the poison ivy you encountered as you cleaned out your flower bed and a scratchy throat and tingling eyes, thanks to Mother Nature’s gift of pollen everywhere.

I can smell spring on the breeze that wafts over the back porch, bringing with it the fresh green scent of new mown grass with a hint of lavender and honeysuckle. Many gardeners claim they can smell dirt as they prepare for tomatoes and squash and cucumbers to come. I love the outdoorsy scent little kids bring with them when they come indoors after playtime. There’s no aroma sweeter than that of the first rose, unless it’s that hint of rib eye steak your neighbor is grilling on his outdoor cooker, making mouths water from one patio to another.

Uh-oh, what’s that acrid, burning odor? Could it be that some unfortunate black and white critter met his fate under the wheels of an 18-wheeler last night?

Spring is definitely eye candy time. The dogwood and redbud trees along the roadside are battling it out as to who’s the most beautiful. Garden centers are awash with colorful petunias, begonias, impatiens and zinnias, just begging to be transplanted to your backyard. Bare legs and arms are everywhere, and often an ample amount of midriff and backside come into view. Okay, we can tolerate belly buttons adorned with glittering studs, but for heaven’s sake, pull up your britches. That backside crack does not speak positively about the human anatomy.

Finally, spring has come to the dinner table. It brings us fresh asparagus, lightly steamed and buttered or glorified with a cheese or Hollandaise sauce. And yum, there’s a batch of garden lettuce waiting to be transformed into tasty wilted lettuce salad.

You’ll find a sprig of mint floating around in your iced tea. There’ll be new potatoes and tiny English peas to tempt your taste buds, spring onions to perk up your salads and soon, if Mother Nature doesn’t play games with another frosty spell, juicy strawberries for your pies, shortcakes and nibbling.

Once upon a time fresh young chicken was a long awaited spring treat. This was because the flocks were culled in the spring, and many a young lady hen made her way to the frying pan. Ditto lamb; it was considered best from March until June, but funny, lamb was never a big hit in the South. Both chicken and lamb are still a treat in the springtime, so fire up your outdoor and get cooking.

We always had shad this time of the year at 101 West Third Avenue. It would be seasoned and baked, head and all, in a paper bag at a low-ish temperature for a couple of hours or so. “What if I get choked on a bone?” I asked the chief cook.

“Don’t worry,” said she. “All the bones melt while the fish cooks.”

Shad is hard to get, to be sure, unless you’re planning a fishing trip to the Columbia River in Washington, where they thrive in abundance. But the fresh lettuce and asparagus, the new potatoes, English peas and plump sweet strawberries will embrace your dinner table with springtime.

Just look around at the trees budding, feel the warm, scented breeze, listen for the mocking bird calling to a mate, eat a big bowl of wilted lettuce salad and you’ll know that spring is here.

Page H. Onorato is a retired teacher.