Ah, the end of February, the drowned rat of the calendar year. We have just about floated away, with endless rain for days upon days. But we might just have easily had snow and sleet for the month, or days as gray as dishwater for weeks on end, all likely possibilities for this, the shortest month, and thank goodness that it is only twenty-eight days long.
It’s sad, really, how tough this month is on most of us. We even have two holidays, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, and you think this would ease the pain, but no. When
I was a child, we had three holidays, because Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Washington each had their own special day, although everyone worked and went to school, and mail was delivered.
There were stories of log cabins and splitting wood, and that other axe, the one that cut down the cherry tree, even though, honestly, no child ever believed deep-down that little George ever uttered the phrase, “I cannot tell a lie.”
A very small child might confess, all sobbing and hiccuppy at getting caught, but no child big enough to wield an axe and do that kiind of damage would ever cop to it, no child you would want to be friends with, at any rate. To support my point, an example.
To this day no one has confessed to eating the last piece of pumpkin pie at my house, the Thanksgiving I was eight. Even though the culprit left behind irrefutable evidence in the pie—a perfectly formed and precise impression of the culprit’s teeth. The culprit must have been disturbed during the event, had heard someone coming and scampered down from the chair that allowed him or her to reach the pie in the first place, up there on top of the refrigerator.
No one confessed, even when the father lined all the children up and placed the half-eaten piece up to four innocent mouths and one guilty one, even when the culprit was thus discovered.
The mouth that held the teeth that matched the pie twisted in a grimace of indignation, and through protestations, he or she wept in a slobbering fit of uncontrollable rage at the audacity and injustice of not being believed. Stomped around the house, escalating, until the rest of the family grew bored of laughing at him or her and ignored the culprit completely.
So, no, I don’t believe George Washington confessed, and, in fact, I came to doubt the whole cherry tree story in its totality.
We put up with this Washington silliness at Longfellow Elementary because there were cupcakes the last half hour of school and some sort of cherry cobbler in the school cafeteria for lunch.
February tries us, but it does some things for us, too. It brings us slowly lengthening days, seed catalogs, stacks of rakes in the racks that once held snow shovels, and gas grills and lawn mowers making their slow march from storeroom to showroom.
February gives us a reason to binge-watch TV, read big books, work complicated jigsaw puzzles, or do nothing much at all. February helps us get ambitious in spring by making us good and bored in late winter. February teases us, or reassures us, with a few warm days here and there, spring-like afternoons with showers and puddles and gusts of wind. February reminds us there are only a few more weeks when we might reasonably expect snow.
Then March, the lion or the lamb, bringing us crocus, daffodils, hyacinth, the first curled fingers of hostas breaking the ground. The buzz of activity in greenhouses, and we stop by, even though the geraniums and herbs aren’t ready yet, stop by just to smell the loamy, peaty composty aroma that signifies new life about to burst from jute pods the size of Dixie cups.
February, we love to hate ya, but you do serve a purpose. We will try to remember that, a year from now, when you roll back in.