April Showers

I peered out of our family car’s mud-splashed backseat window. A passing milk truck had showered our car with a gritty mixture of mud, water, gravel and ice crystals shortly after we’d pulled out of our farmyard. Dirty snowbanks slumped in the roadside ditches. Brilliant sunshine and 40-degree springtime air was making them melt. I was amazed at how much the huge banks had already shrunk. Their sodden mess filled the ditches, so the melt water had nowhere to go but on the road, making it look like a mucky cow yard.

Arriving at my school, Daddy drove into the parking lot where dozens of other parents were dropping their children off. The blacktop lot, covered with a thick layer of hard ice all winter, was now covered with slush. I stomped my way to the school door, taking delight in the way my footsteps splashed. It didn’t matter to me that my brown stockings were getting drenched.

I had noticed that there were times when I arrived at school and found the building filled with the air of excitement and happy expectations. This especially was felt on snowy winter mornings. The halls buzzed with quiet murmurs of, “Do you think they’ll call off school and send us home early?” Hope, happiness and exhilaration could almost be smelled, touched, tasted.  Today, the excitement was due to the sudden arrival of spring weather during the weekend.

Sister Florence had put up a new bulletin board in my classroom over the weekend. Amid clouds of colorful flowers cut-out from construction paper, it proclaimed, “April showers bring May flowers!”  One of my classmates proudly offered Sister a bouquet of pussy willow twigs. Her wrinkled face was transformed by a big smile as she accepted the gift with genuine delight. Everyone was ready for spring.

Years later, shortly after we turned 19, my husband and I were married in April. Making a happy time of year an extra reason for us to be happy. We set up a household and soon there was a baby on the way.

Christy was born in the beginning of February but had serious health problems. She died two months later on the 2nd of April in 1971. That is when April showers started to take on a new meaning for me, falling tears, instead of rain drops.

I grew up being told that lightning never strikes in the same place twice. April was my wedding anniversary month so I tried to make it a happy time by preparing gardens, taking long walks or going sucker fishing with Arnie when the weather was nice.

Memories of seeing what looked like UFO lights zipping around overhead while we sat on a remote, back country river bank make me giggle. I was scared. Arnie claimed he wasn’t scared, but he did put away our poles and decided to go home.

April in Wisconsin is often bleak with the trees slow to bud out with leaves. One year in the mid 1980’s was an exception. That year on the day of our anniversary, the trees were covered in leaves, something I’d never seen before, nor since. Arnie and I went for a walk in the balmy, velvety-warm evening air.

It’s a good thing we don’t know what the future holds for us. Arnie died suddenly and unexpectedly on April 2nd, 2007, the anniversary of the day our daughter had died 36 years earlier. The saying “lightning never strikes in the same place twice”, isn’t true.  

My daughter Niki and her husband Mike took over Arnie’s business after his death. They did well and I was proud of them. I loved Mike as my own. Together, they made a beautiful, large family. Then lightning struck again. Eight years after Arnie’s death, Mike died in a car accident on April 17th, 2015.

As snowdrifts melt away each spring, I try not to dislike the month of April. Remembering the sad things that happened in past Aprils makes it hard. Fortunately, I have a spring-time faith. I know that eventually Christy, Arnie, Mike and I will all be together once again. All our grief and stress will be gone, like dross burned away from precious metals in a furnace.

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