Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Idea of March and Other Days

It seems like we just celebrated New Year's, but here it is, the Ides of March. Memories of high school Latin class and Caesar's Gallic Wars dance through my head. I loved Latin. Our teacher, a sweet spinster with iron gray hair, was outstanding. Latin was her life, and her greatest dream was to visit Rome. My senior year in high school, her students raised the money to make her dream come true.

For me, March is always a bittersweet month, filled with beauty and pain. It's warm now in Houston, in the 70;s, but because of late freezes, gardens are still bare. My redbud, my favorite tree, is just budding. Next week it will be filled with feathery fuchsia flowers that will eventually give way to green leaves. Usually by now, azaleas are in full bloom--rose, pink, lavendar, white. Seeing them makes me catch my breath. But this year, not a single blossom is to be seen. The annual Azalea Trail began last weekend, with no azaleas.

On highways and country roads, the bluebonnets are starting to bloom. Seeing them, our state flower, can turn any Texan's heart to mush. Taking a Saturday or Sunday drive along the Bluebonnet Trail each spring has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. I always pick a handful, watching over my shoulder for the Highway Patrol. You are not supposed to pick bluebonnets along Texas highways.

March brings the Livestock Show and Rodeo, one of Houston's premier events. Groups of trail riders come in from nearby areas the week before the rodeo. They spend Friday night in Memorial Park. It nearly always rains. Saturday is the rodeo parade and a few days later the real thing begins. Last time I went to the rodeo was in 2004 to see bull riding and Willie Nelson...and the pig races.

March means putting away winter clothes, pollen and sneezing, soft spring breezes and surprise northers. One such norther blew in during the late afternoon of March 29 when I was in college. I hadn't worn a jacket to class, but I had worn a long sleeved dress with a wide patent leather belt. Underneath it I wore the fashion fad of the year, a crinoline petticoat that made the dress stand out like an old-fashioned hoop skirt. That evening one of my roomates had turned on the gas heater in our room, but she hadn't closed the window. A stiff breeze blew in as I stood with my back to the stove, talking to one of my sorority sisters. Suddenly she yelled, "Your dress is on fire." The petticoat had blown into the stove. I knew better than to run, but I ran, screaming. I was burned over a third of my body and spent three months in the burn ward at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston. I am lucky to have survived.

My father died in March 1981. Ralph and I were planning a trip to South America, but I got sick with fever and a throat infection so we had to cancel. Therefore we were home when Daddy was hospitalized with a kidney infection. I had already planned to be away from work, so as soon as my infection cleared, I went to Austin. Missing that vacation was an experience of synchronicity. I got to be with my father during his last days. As I packed for the drive to Austin, I pondered taking my black suit, reasoning that if I didn't bring it, I wouldn't need it. Ralph brought it the following week for me to wear to Daddy's funeral.

Ralph's stem cell transplant was in March. We went in with such high hopes, but the transplant began the downward slide that ended in his death.

Ralph's birthday was in March, and so was my first wedding (and that marriage ended badly).

As lovely as this month is on the outside, it hurts inside, and I'm always glad to see March end and April begin.



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