April, that complicated month
I wonder what it is about April that breaks my heart? It is certainly the month of poets; heavens, it is even National Poetry Month. It is the month of songs and poems, the cruellest month, the brightest month.
It's the month of the births of two of my children, the month in which my father was born, the month in which each day has the name of a friend on it, and most of those friends dead now.
It's the month in which I actually was in Paris, decades ago, dazzled by the pure light, amazed that even little children spoke French with flawless accents, enchanted by the hotel concierge's huge marmalade cat.
And yes, there were chestnuts in blossom, great candelabras of chestnut flowers. And little captured foxes in wire cages by the Seine, and doubtful gentlemen trying to pick up a much too innocent little blonde.
They thought I was Swedish. For some unknown reason--my professors in college also remarked on this--when I speak French I speak it as my Swedish speaking ancestors would have. Wasn't a bad thing, back in the day, though it dashed the expectations of my gentlemen.
My lovely daughter is now a few years older than I was. Though in some alternate universe that thin young blonde poet is still staring at the Seine, mulling over a line or two, waiting for her April born, dashing young love.
He would have been busy poring over dusty files in a library while I was off weeping over the little foxes.
April is the month of my last time at the edge of suicide as well. I was thinking of this the other day--not suicide, but that phantom anniversary, that little fork in a winding road I didn't know I was on. As I get older I am astonished at how quickly the time flows by. It was surely yesterday I wept and lay down in the long soft April grass and plotted my death so carefully, with such pure exhaustion.
And..I think 16 years have passed now, since I faced such a dark door, and then came through into the purest light. Think of that. 16 years. Entire trees have grown up that I planted by seed then. I have planted such gardens, and watched over dogs, and cats, and my growing children. My dear Gabe, though still fragile, has had a pretty good time these years. I have seen my quirky little girl flower into a spectacular womanhood, and my eldest son become a wonderful force in our community.
What on earth was I thinking? I can only tell you that the logic of suicide is strange and seductive. I wept the other day when I heard the news that Nicolas Hughes, the son Sylvia Plath wrote such moving poems about, had stepped out of this life. But I know the territory.
It was April. The friend I called to, out of my despair, was most fortunately for me a doctor and someone I trusted. And indeed loved. We walked through the river valley where the new flowers were blooming and the April rains were falling. We talked. For me I think it was my one last bid for life, and I didn't really think it would work, but I felt I owed it to my friend and to anyone else who might care to reach out once more.
But my soul was exhausted, my body was aching, I had gone through a winter in which my youngest was near death over and over and over again. When I lay on the long grass I was longing for my heart's mother to just swoop in and take me away. Let me rest. For God's sake, let me rest.
I intended, of course to take my youngest along. I was a good mother.
Of course I tremble when I think how close we were, my boy and I. And life had a lot more to give us and ask us, both of us.
My friend the doctor gave me a remedy. I had no belief it could work, but I took it.
And the sun came out in my heart.
It was April, the season of rains and flowers, and birthday celebrations. I sort of count one of my own birthdays from April onwards, not from my actual date of birth. Sort of "welcome back to life". It's a private celebration--but I'm glad to mark it.
(photo was taken in a long ago April. I'm showing my daughter how elegant it might be to wear four o'clock blossoms on one's nose)