Today in Chicago, as of not quite 2 p.m., the temperature has finally cracked 45 degrees. After much of the past week–let alone the past winter!–I was beginning to think it never would again. The sky is this strangely beautiful color… blue, I think it’s called. I have vague memories of it from somewhere back in the Long Ago. Then again, they might be impossible dreams. And did I mention the big glowing yellowy thing, high up in that blue, blue sky? So bright you can’t look straight at it–you can only guess what color it is from the soft, golden tint it lends to the air that doesn’t hurt your face? I used to know what that glowing thing is called. The name escapes me for the moment, but I’m sure I’ll remember. Eventually.
April is that kind of month. The first one that, in my universe, truly counts as spring. Oh, sure, March has the spring equinox–the official kickoff date for the year’s most welcome change of season–but if you’ve grown up on the shores of Lake Michigan, in the city whose winters are legendary for snow, cold, biting wind and a whiplash-worthy changeability that in many ways is the hardest burden of all, March is a poser. The ass-end of winter masquerading as spring’s debut, laying its claim on the dubious strength of an astronomical phenomenon (say that ten times fast, I dare you!) that doesn’t even occur until 21 days in. Do the math. March, 11 days of “spring.” April, 30 days. April wins.
Yet April is also the “cruelest month,” or so the poets say. Hereabouts, it’s true. I mean, really. An April-fool of a spring day on the 1st, followed by three days of raw damp cold where we were lucky to get out of the 30s? Chill winds, rain, muddy slop and wet, all presided over by skies so thick with gloom that we might as well be back in the depths of February? Where the hell did my spring go? April is supposed to be spring! I was promised spring by now, dammit!
Well, my back-order finally came. Today the gloom is gone, the knife-cutting cold wind turned to a gentle breeze. I even went outside without my winter coat. Without a coat at all, just long enough to find a treasure in my back flower bed–the first brick-red tip of a peony bush, timidly poking up through the wet black dirt like a child peeking out from hiding, checking to see if it’s finally safe to come outside.
You can come out now, peonies. And crocuses, and day-lilies, and hyacinths, and the chives in my herb garden that not even the polar vortex could kill. It’s April. Not April cruel, but April kind. And after that comes May, and June, and summer, sure as tomato-planting time. (Which I can’t wait to get to. Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes eaten straight off the vine–there is no surer definition of heaven.)
It’s been a long time coming. But it’s here.