In Like a Lamb

Please, March, in like a lamb.  Also, out like a lamb, if you don’t mind.  It’s just that I have much less tolerance for extremes in all things, and where I once enjoyed a good storm standing on the porch as if lashed to a spar, all dramatic with wild hair dripping spray, now I just want to nap.

It was a family trait, this standing in the open door as soon as the tornado sirens sounded.   My father started it, and then my siblings and I gathered close behind him, pushing for advantage to be the first one blown off to Oz.

I think it disgusted my mother, and she figured the sensible ones, if there were any, would return to the safety of, if not the basement, an interior room, and she never called for us, yelled at us, or pleaded.  She  wasn’t wasting her well-being or her breath on such a spectacular group of nincompoops.

I get my kicks on Netflix now, where I help my Scandinavian and British colleagues solve crime. I am in actual danger only rarely, like when I drop the remote and I have to crawl around to find it.  It hurts my knees and sometimes I get wedged between the wall and sofa, where I spend several upsetting minutes, contemplating my derisive attitude toward the Life Alert necklace, and feeling shame for how often I made fun  of “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

I hope for a March of calm, one where the patio furniture stays put and the rains are gentle and restorative. I enjoy the sun slanting in that particular way as it arcs toward its summer home and the nights are cold, but only blanket cold, not big socks, down comforter, wear a toboggan to bed cold.  I hope for March mornings, brisk and bright.

March is meant to be spent wandering the home stores and Rural King. There are packets of seeds to peruse, new garden gloves to try on, hoses to access.  Hoses are the bane of my existence.  I used to buy cheap ones, but they kinked so horribly I bit the bullet and purchased a heavy duty hose.  While I was at it, I thought I should get one a hundred feet long, and I could barely drag it around my yard.  It crushed my tender flowers and I had to sit down throughout the chore of watering, because it exhausted me.

Now I pick up those lightweight pocket hoses when I see them on sale.  I treat them as consumables, knowing eventually they will rupture and die, and then I go to the garage and get another one from the shelf where they sit, stacked up like surplus paper towels.

March is for cleaning windows, the better to watch the fledgling spring arrive.  It is for sprucing up around the yard, raking, buying bags of mulch, painting the wrought iron on the rare warm day.  March gives us our last chance for snow, which will be thrilling to await, but disappointing upon arrival.  It will be a heavy snow and short-lived, and in a huff we will wonder why it didn’t have the good grace to show up on Christmas Eve.

March gets props because it puts an end to February, and we love that about it.  March prepares us for Easter, for planting, for moving our lives outside. We get that extra hour of light in the evening and we get to put away our heaviest clothes.  March points us, decidedly, toward spring, with dogwood and redbud and the scent of slowing warming earth. And about time.

Hearts and Flowers

There was a time when I had a suitor of such passion, bordering on obsession, that my mailbox was filled with Valentines, all with his name scrawled across the bottom.  I was “the apple of his eye.”  He pleaded, “Please be Mine!” The cards, pink and festooned with hearts, or red and lacy white, begged, complimented and angled to butter me up to cast an accepting eye his way.

I was secretly pleased by the attention, but a little embarrassed, too, and I did nothing to encourage him.  This only seemed to fuel his ardor.  His mother was concerned. I know this because she accosted my own mother one afternoon at the grocery.

“I want to talk to you about the children,” she said.  “This is getting out of hand and I am concerned.”

“They are just too young.  He must concentrate on his education,” she said, all fierce and insistent. 

Mother listened, standing there in the middle of the cereal aisle, and she was stunned, unsure how to respond.

We were eight.

Her son’s valentines had been stuffed in the shoe box I had decorated the day before, all red construction paper and doilies.  You hoped to get one valentine from every child in class, those flimsy cardboard things, stuffed in even flimsier envelopes.  My haul that year was magnificent, thanks to Mike.

Another Valentine’s Day, and I am away at college.  There, on the counter of the front desk of the dorm were flowers for me.  A dozen long-stemmed red roses, in a box.  A box. With a little cellophane window, and a card attached to it.  I rearranged the card so my name was more visible to all who passed by, and left them there for over an hour for full effect.

I wonder now what I would have done with long-stemmed roses.  In a tiny dorm room, cell-like and spartan, I can’t imagine I had a vase sufficient to hold them.  Perhaps the hall director loaned me one.

But to this day I can attest these were the best flowers I ever received for the sheer drama of it, and I remember them, and the boy who sent them.

And then, this other Valentine’s Day. 

My pal, Alice, and I were in the habit of spending Thursday afternoons together, under the premise of writing our great works.  We wrote together exactly once.  We continued to meet each Thursday—her husband was out of town every Thursday night, so she was a free agent —and we took advantage of the time to poke around town and go out to eat.

We are not particularly fussy about where we go, yet we are indecisive.  We spend lots of time not caring and then rejecting every suggestion made by the other, until we finally settle, half an hour later, on our destination.

This one rainy February Thursday we headed out into the dark, looking forward to our dinners at a place we agreed upon quickly.  The parking lot was full.  People were huddled under the awning.  We didn’t even bother pulling into the parking lot.  We were surprised, but flexible, so we headed toward our second choice.

Same thing.  Overflowing parking lot.  People spilling out the door.  And the third place. Same.  The traffic, too, just terrible for six o’clock on a Thursday night.

We settled on our favorite Mexican place because there were spaces left to park.  We stood crushed against the patrons waiting to be seated, the door half-open, letting in waves of cold air and rain. I wondered out loud what was going on, we had never seen it so crowded on a weeknight.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” a helpful woman said.  We laughed at ourselves for not knowing, our lives so pitiful the day slipped our notice.  They laughed at us, too, those couples who were making the questionable choice of Mexican on this night, but perhaps they couldn’t get in their first choice, either.

And now that one, too, is a memorable Valentine’s Day. When Alice and I think we are in the mood for Mexican food, we no longer call it by its name, but rather “our special place.”  If we are out tearing up the roads and we see the restaurant is having a busy day, one of us might mutter,  “Must be Valentine’s Day.”

And that is just fine, too. I’ll take it all—the little cards from smitten boys, the flowers, old friends, and dear hearts.  Just as St. Valentine intended.