Column: April brings a new wardrobe and a new state of mind

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 11, 2002

Unlike T.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Unlike T.S. Eliot, I’ve never thought of April as the &uot;cruelest Month,&uot; or even a cruel month. It has sometimes seemed a little on the disappointing side when spring is a bit longer in coming than it should be.

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When I was a child it was a month for beginning to wear cotton dresses and half socks. My mother tried to get it across to me that you dressed according to the weather instead of dressing according to the calendar, but if a classmate showed up wearing gingham, while I was still wearing wool, I went promptly into a moult. A moult heroically ignored by most of my family, though I did have a young uncle who did his best for me.

He even explained to my mother that the Cruikshanks were of Celtic background and that as everyone knew the Celts went forth to battle carrying shield and spear, but wearing only sandals and a gold necklace.

&uot;They often won battles even against the Romans,&uot; he said, &uot;because the Romans, taken aback by the Celtic garb, sometimes avoided them entirely.&uot;

&uot;Probably thought they were insane,&uot; said my mother, leaving no doubt that she was thoroughly in accord with the Romans.

Adding to my discontent was the fact that April was a rainy month. No amount of hearing that &uot;April showers bring May flowers,&uot; compensated me for having to wear rubbers over my shoes and a hooded raincoat. I didn’t know whether the Celts were insane or not, but it was in my mind that most adults were.

One bright spot was that there were glimpses of spring. In March the skies that had been sort of a dirty grey all winter turned to a dark, vivid blue. There would still be snow, now and then even on Easter. The skies, though, were no longer a winter color.

Early in April, the sky took on the lighter blue with fluffy white clouds drifting across it. For me this was always the beginning of spring. It came earlier in Nebraska than it does in Minnesota.

Way back in 1946, April 6 to be exact, my mother and I went home to visit various members of her family. My aunt, eight years older than my mother, lived in southern Nebraska, on the Kansas-Missouri border, about 45 miles south of my hometown. Her garden was in full bloom and we had little spring onions at our meals.

When we returned to Minnesota a week or so later we were back in winter, grey skies, raw winds, and huge piles of dirty unmelted snow.

Despite the short distance between my mother’s sister and us, she had paw paw trees and they didn’t grow in our town. When I was a grown up and leader of a Girl Scout troop, the Girl Scouts sang a song about pretty little Polly picking up paw paws down in the paw paw patch. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, but it did, that not one of them knew what a paw paw was.

A friend of mine traveling in Missouri brought me back a necklace, a chain decorated with paw paw seeds. The rest of my family wasn’t as crazy about paw paws as I was. I found them delicious. They’re yellow and creamy and taste like a combination of bananas and avocados.

It must have been 20 years ago or more, when planning to go back to a class reunion, I remarked to my friend, Marga Bergie, that I was going home.

Marga, who came here a war bride from Germany, inquired &uot;How long did you live in Nebraska?&uot;

&uot;Seventeen and a half years.&uot;

&uot;And in Minnesota?&uot;

&uot;About 40 years.&uot;

&uot;And when will you start thinking of Minnesota as home?&uot;

It was a good question, one I still ponder. I’ve lived in Minnesota more than 60 years now and have no desire to live elsewhere. Sometimes, however, when I get a little impatient for early spring, or hungry for a bite of paw paw, I find myself a bit homesick. Nothing lasting, fortunately.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.