The worst thing about March
My mother used to remind us, if we couldn’t say something nice about someone or about a situation, then we shouldn’t say anything at all. That little warning had a dual effect. We usually searched our minds for some relatively benign trait we could point out without too much guilt, and it kept us from tattling or otherwise airing our silly childhood squabbles in public. It also had the side-benefit of giving Mother the reputation of having raised four “nice” daughters.
While none of us was ever elected Homecoming Queen or even class president or any of those other honorifics that serve as popularity measurements, we did all have several close friends and enjoyed relatively happy relationships with our peers. But even then, that admonition to “not say anything at all” became well-ingrained and we all ended up with a habit that constitutes a sort of denial. We tend to shut out the unpleasant aspects of life around us and pretend they don’t exist.
I suppose it is still my Mother’s influence that keeps me from being overly critical of even those things beyond human control, such as the weather, for instance. My normal comments on meteorological matters aren’t particularly acute or disapproving– they’re simply statements of my observations or explanations of my reactions to conditions. Nothing personal or vindictive about it. Now it just so happens, this month marks my 92nd March, so I have quite a variety of Marches to use for comparison, and I must confess there’s not one that stands out more in my memory than the present one. Not for weather, that is, or for being particularly unusual in any comparable way. I can’t claim the string of April- and May-like days has been a hardship. We all seem to have been made more lighthearted and optimistic by the warmer, sunnier days, and very few of us have been complaining about the lack of sleet, slush, snow, and ice.
I admit, I once rather enjoyed walking home from school on a sunny, dripping March afternoon. There would be rivulets of melted snow carving out miniature stream beds in the dirt road that went east to west behind the East Ward school, all the way to where it intersected with First Street just at the corner by Mrs. Henry Little’s house, our next door neighbor. My friend Betty Brown and I often took as long as an hour just to walk those five or six short blocks, splashing at puddles trapped under thin ice in the shady spots, and toeing gravel aside to make new channels for miniature streams and tributaries. Once, we spied a glittering white rock next to the opening of a storm sewer. It was about the size of a basketball and seemed about to be swept away in the flood. Convincing ourselves we were saving this beautiful rock from oblivion, we took turns carrying it, in half-block relays, until at last we decided to tie it into the legs of my snow pants and I dragged it the rest of the way home. My mother sewed an ugly black patch on the snow pants where the stone had worn through and placed the stone next to the birdbath in her flower garden.
Another March, just before I turned 8, saw the anticipated arrival of my youngest sister, Ruth Ann, who captivated me and became “my” baby. I entertained her, taught her, told her stories and treated her like the living doll she was until I went off to college.
There was the March we moved to the acreage. Tradition dictated in order to be ready when it was time to put in spring crops and gardens, farmers and most other people moved to new houses during the month of March. On Ruth Ann’s second birthday, our parents moved the family to 10 acres located just within the limits of town. It was a place my dad had dreamed about for years and he very nearly achieved his goal of producing most of the food for our family on that 10 acres. It was a cold, blustery March day, spitting snow and blowing raw, damp blasts of wind through the often-wide-open doors of our new home as my parents and uncles moved in cartons of dishes and clothing, books and furniture.
While it has been dominated by above-normal temperatures, the present March, which I’ve been told is the perfect breeding ground for those nasty viruses that cause the common cold, is made most memorable by the fact that after nearly 12 years of having suffered from neither flu nor a cold, I seem to have been laid low by just such a mundane ailment. Not even a hint of glamour or drama to allow me to think of it as flu, I simply, shiver, cough, sneeze and wheeze. Nothing but a common cold. How humiliating!