March’s Tender Promise

In memory of my mother, Grace Minto, who died two years after this was first published in the Litchfield County (CT) Times, March 2013. Though not Irish, she loved Saint Patrick’s Day.

I look at the field and realize for the first time in three months the ground is green. Yes, there’s lingering snow and mud oozing, but overwhelmingly there’s green. Green grass, green tennis courts, and green shoots poking through garden debris. 

Sun lingers and there are birds at the feeder. Next week, students who go to the boarding school where we live will be back from spring break and sounds of balls—tennis balls, baseballs, softballs—will fill the afternoon air. Thwomp, crack, pop as bats and rackets connect, releasing the tension of a winter of indoor sports, academics in steam-heated rooms, and too many dorm-bound nights stuck inside by cold or snow.

Today my own tension of winter boredom snapped as I pried open the back door and resurrected the deck with broom, Windex, and paper towels. Cleaning table and chairs, sweeping seed kernels and refitting the bird feeder on its metal hangers gave me joy that spring is here once again. New seed brings cardinals, tufted titmice, and chickadees, as well as sneaky squirrels, happy to see their food once again. 

What is it about green that refreshes my soul? Is it because it’s “God’s Color,” as Mom always said? Is it the hint of leprechaun? St. Patrick’s Day and the wearin’ of the green, even for those of us not Irish, brings the wink of a smile that life doesn’t have to be so serious. We can dance a jig, toast with some ale, and know that things aren’t so bad if we face them together.

And then there’s Mom curled into a fetal ball, living for her three meals a day. Waiting to be changed and rolled; dependent on her caretaker Dimple and my sister. I dutifully arrive in Florida every few months to check in, though keeping a safe distance from the reality that Mom has retreated into a netherworld–the twilight between life and death; living, but not really living any kind of a life. Dying, but not yet leaving. Suspended day-to-day by the care of Dimple so willing to change and wipe and feed and preen. 

Mom hangs in the balance between two worlds, the here and now and the there and hereafter. The birds hang in the balance of the feeder as it swings in the wind, dependent on the seed being dumped in day by day.

My own balance is caught off guard by the delicate tug of winter’s discontent lingering in my bones, reminding me of daily failures or regrets. Blessedly, just as I’m over the edge with all that I’m not, the green of March opens my sensibilities to possibilities. There’s hope in tomorrow. Hope for being a better grandmother than I am mother. Hope for being a better old wife than young wife. Hope for being a better friend now than I was as a young friend. March simply brings hope. 

What a happy thought as the march of hope begins again. Hope of new babies and hope of redemption. Is that why Lent lingers in March, to remind us that redemption is nigh? The oozing mud of life threatens to suck us in, but the green, grass soaks it up for us.

People like Dimple perform daily miracles that keep life in balance for people like Mom and me–people who need to be balanced. That’s what March is all about. It’s the balance-beam month, a pivot from winter to spring. 

My soul awakens to the melting snow, the green carpet, the roaring brook, and the hope of tomorrow. Now the clocks spring forward like leprechauns jumping over the stones of life, leaving tomorrow filled with the sunshine of new chances, and new opportunities. Quite simply, a new season.

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