We are nearly two weeks into March. We have another hour of light at the end of the day. The lilac buds are visibly swelling and the bird songs are becoming very spring-like as they defend their territory and woo their mates. I caught the “fragrance” of a skunk this past week; possibly warning the cats away from their own left-over cat food. Of course, skunks mate in February and March, so they could have been demanding privacy for business other than food.
The mild days we’ve had draw me irresistibly toward all my garden plans and magazine articles. I have a folder of landscaping ideas, of insects both invasive and benign, another folder of herbal history and uses, one on companion planting and miscellaneous garden ideas. March is a great time to look through them all, but the down-side is that in March, having had enough of winter-ish days, it seems quite possible to actually implement all of those wonderful ideas in the folders. Ah -- the illusions created by time and distance; how quickly the brain discards memory of humidity, heat, mosquitoes and arthritic joints! ☺ Memory can be very subjective.
Sometimes it is a small thing that will trigger some very big memories. For “Doughnut Day” before Lent began, we made raised doughnuts from my grandfather’s recipe. And it brought back a flood of memories. When my grandmother developed Parkinson’s Disease Grandpa took over the family food preparation. So my oatmeal cookie and doughnut recipes are from him although they may well have been Grandma’s initially. Grandpa was a blacksmith, so taking on the tasks of keeping a home working had to have been difficult although of their six children, most were grown and out of the house by this time. When I think back and consider the situation, I am impressed by the fortitude and skill that he must have developed. Grandpa lived with us for a few months toward the end of his life. He didn’t talk a lot, but I did know that he looked forward to my practice time on the piano --- and some of the old hymns that I could both play and sing. It takes real love to sit through endless scales and etudes by a 12-year-old. And that is really my best memory ---- of Grandpa sitting in a rocking chair, with his eyes closed, just listening.
Speaking of memories, I’m supposed to be summoning up impressions of my days at Victor Central School. Elementary school was not, I think, a super- happy experience although I don’t think it was terrible. I do remember that my first day in kindergarten, some little girl that I didn’t know, threatened to de-stuff my teddy bear. I don’t remember actually liking school a lot until I arrived at Mrs. Tallman’s sixth grade class. She was so creative and kind a teacher! Then junior hi and high school, with the exception of occasional teen angst, was mostly enjoyable. There were some excellent teachers. Maurice Comings gave me occasional glimmers of light in my fog around algebra; his sense of humor and patience worked wonders. Mrs. Dunn made a dead language rather fun; we all had Roman names while in class and wrote notes to each other in Latin. Helen Schantz was, I think, a way better teacher than we all realized; she probably should have been teaching at college level. Her sense of humor, her affection for her students and her ability to make sense of Shakespeare, Beowulf, etc. was amazing. Carl Palumbo terrified all of us but inside that disciplinarian was a kind and caring man. When I decided to not take Math 12, he said, “OH Good!” ---- then we both laughed. My two most fun memories of him were a) hearing him sing “Hear Those Lions Roar” at a Lion’s Club event and b) telling him, lots of years later, that I was administering a half-million dollar budget. He said: “Well, I always knew you could do it.” Our physics teacher, Mr. Strait, obviously kept track of what his students were doing for he wisely wrote in my yearbook that “there are many fish in the sea!” He was right! Also, I got an “A” in college physics due to his excellent instruction in high school. I’ve already mentioned our stellar music department in a previous essay. These teachers were such talented, caring individuals.
An immediate smile comes when I remember the basket ball games --- the major sport for our school at that time --- sitting behind the players as they discussed their next moves, and watching Coach Lynaugh chew his towel. There were no competitive women’s sports, but we had good Intramural basket ball teams with Mrs. Pop. And there were the school dances --- a Sadie Hawkins dance around Halloween, a Junior Prom in the spring and a Senior Ball in December. Everyone in the high school was welcome at these events. There were after-the-prom parties in someone’s garage, or living room to extend the fun of the evening. I am a bit appalled at the expense and sophistication encompassing today’s school proms; the limos, rented tuxedos, very expensive gowns and dinners at restaurants of fine dining. I think we encourage adult behavior way too soon, but perhaps that’s my small, lingering core of minimalist (and some conservative parental) thinking. And the extravagant fuss may simply be due to parents wishing to relive their prom times!
The music festivals and All-State recitals for those in the music programs were both scary and fun. It was intimidating to have one’s musical skills exhibited before other talented teens and experienced judges. I still remember how shocked I was when a boy from another school beat me out for first chair flute in an all-state orchestra. But these events were maturing experiences both for our musical growth and getting to know our fellow-students on the bus rides to and from.
On normal school days, our lunch times offered some freedom; I learned to play poker (and have now totally forgotten how), there was a month or two when some of us formed the Hall Campfire Girls (not part of the actual organization); a fun and chatty group sitting around on the floor sans campfire. The senior play was another opportunity to build relationships and learn a new side of ourselves as well as others. Regents Week always brought less formal schedules, more casual clothing and considerable sitting on the school lawn, for those often steamy test-taking days.
During those years, we were very self-centered; we babbled more than we listened to each other. We wore a lot of masks to impress and were unsure of who we were and what we wanted out of life. Now, we find it good to listen to how our friends and former friends are living their lives; what keeps them happy and alive to the world around. Jean de La Bruyere said that: “The true spirit of conversation consists more in bringing out the cleverness of others than in showing a great deal of it yourself; he who goes away pleased with himself and his own wit is also greatly pleased with you.”* We also share sadness as we think of those classmates we’ve lost. They leave a hole in our lives that remains a hole. Bags of memories are mixed bags for sure.
On a subject other than my memories, one of the bloggers that I read quite often mentioned how quickly, in our culture, days become a blur: “I think that the reason the current of your days is slipping by you unnoticed is because there’s a current that runs even deeper that escapes your attention too. I’m talking about your thoughts, your aspirations, your intentions……..if you aren’t a curator of your mindset, you’re missing a huge opportunity to drench yourself in gratitude, empower yourself with abundance and create the life you really want.” **
I think she is saying that no day should fly or drift by; time is so precious. This has been my Lenten thought too. Instead of giving something up, make a special effort to be aware of the small wonderful things; taking intentional note of each day. I used to occasionally experience driving to work and not remembering an entire stretch of highway between Van Etten and Odessa. I’m sure anyone driving the same route every day has done this on occasion. It is a little frightening wondering, where was my conscious mind? So I’m trying not to do that ---- not just while driving ---- but in living. I don’t want to blank out on anything.
Meanwhile, this week is SO very nice outside. A friend saw, locally, a blue heron. They don’t come until their bird brains tell them that spring is about to be with us. The green spears of spring bulbs are up an inch or so. The snow drops and winter aconite are blooming as are two crocuses with purple petals. I hope your March is also a time of early spring, good reminiscing and new adventures.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Jean de La Bruyere --- 17th century French writer and philosopher. 1645-1696.
**Gretchen Rubin --- American writer, blogger and speaker. She is best known for her book on Happiness.