Ah, April

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April: the ice goes out on rivers and ponds around here. In keeping with tradition, Paul Jones made a game of guessing: the exact date and time the ice went out on Roxbury Pond. Bob Stickeney won: 4 p.m., April 12. Early this year, the usual date being the 24th or even the 27th.

I’d always wondered just what the ice-out event is like. I’d imagined a series of big booms as the ice came asunder.

No. Paul set me straight. “The ice is out when you can put a boat in the pond and not have to climb over ice to get to the water.”

For many years, he continued, guessing when the ice would go out was a serious competition at Roxbury, complete with prizes; but it died out about a decade ago. Dennis Daniels, who runs the corner store at the pond is trying to revive it.

April: trees and shrubs reddening with buds. Daffodils blooming – some of them anyway; on our cold slope, the daffodils will bloom in May. Time to wash windows and begin installing the screens. Time to pay taxes. Time to struggle with town budgets.

Warm April days: teen-aged girls have broken out their shorts and halters, and the lunch crowd on Congress Street is in shirtsleeves. Lots of smiles.

April: high time to plant spinach, peas, and lettuce in the garden. Time to start seeds in the concrete damp of the basement, a job I like. Helping new life to begin. Noticing that, not unlike people, plants’ have strong identities from their earliest day. A tomato seedling with its first true leaves smells like tomato! This weekend just past, later than usual, I started my seeds, and thought about the new lives that start in April, and the old lives that end.

April 2006, time for big losses: Marcia Leavitt and Bev Kirn: their friends cherish their humor, courage and grace. Rupert Eliott, rugged individual and wit Rita Colby, our cherished friend and neighbor. Blackie Aresenault, a legend in the River Valley. Our family treasures, Aunt Tucker (Kinsman) and Charles Abbott Macgregor (who grew up at 7 Knox St.), within days of each other. Those losses are in our River Valley world; there are others, I know.

“April is the cruelest month….” wrote poet T.S. Eliot. More than any other month, I think, April catches us up in simultaneous joy and sorrow, “…memory and desire.”

But, take heart; this time next week “Welcome be thou, faire, freshe” uncomplicated May!

Linda Farr Macgregor lives with her husband, Jim, in Rumford. She is a freelance writer and author of “Rumford Stories.” Contact her at ljm@gwi.net

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