Fool and Cruel With a Chance of Showers by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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There’s a lot to be said for April, much of it bad. I know it’s only one of our four shorter months (I don’t even count February as a month), but it certainly seems to me that a lot of negativity has been packed into April’s thirty days. Just consider:

As far as I know, April is the only month to celebrate fools. It’s not a new phenomenon. In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer mentioned playing pranks on friends way back in 1392. In France, the custom was to slap a paper fish on an unknowing victim’s back (“Poisson d’Avril!”) while in Scotland—my ancestral home—April first was traditionally called Huntigowk Day, a “gowk” being Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person.

Other countries around the world as far away as India and Iran have joined the fun, sometimes with not-so-fun consequences. In 1957, the BBC broadcast a film on April first purporting to show Swiss farmers harvesting freshly grown spaghetti plants. The BBC was subsequently flooded with requests for spaghetti plant seeds. Most people thought it all harmlessly fun but a few disappointed pasta lovers thought it a cruel hoax.

Speaking of cruel, the opening line of T.S. Eliot’s elegiac poem The Waste Land (1922) sets a dismal tone for April:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Poor April! It may never recover from such a dreary assessment.

Were this literary pummeling of April not bad enough, the IRS in its infinite wisdom set the seal of doom on April when it made April 15 (or thereabouts, depending on the weekend) the deadline for filing income tax forms to federal, state, and local governments. Exceptions to this deadline abound (see “Trump, Donald J.”), but like another famous date on the calendar, April 15 has a certain ring of infamy to it.

And then there’s the weather. Every child knows that “April showers bring May flowers,” but May is then and April is now. It’s as though we should overlook this poor month in favor of the next, effectively making May the teacher’s pet and April the poor stepchild. Sigh.

But I guess we shouldn’t completely give up on the fourth month. This year, April kicked off with Easter, a joyous celebration of renewal and rebirth, a day on which all rabbits have an uncontrollable urge to hide colored eggs. Go figure. Opening Day of the baseball season often falls in early April although this year, that honor fell to March, the renowned lion and lamb of the calendar. And I would certainly be remiss not to mention that my lovely wife’s birthday falls in April, as do the birthdays of one daughter-in-law, one grandchild, two nieces and a nephew, and numerous friends. Lots of cards, but then, ours is a large family.

Come to think of it, there are all manner of reasons to celebrate April. Marathon runners converge on Boston on Patriot’s Day (April 16), an official holiday in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. A few days later, we’ll celebrate our planet on Earth Day (April 22) and on the last Friday of this month (April 27 this year), we should all go out and plant a tree in honor of Arbor Day.

I guess maybe April’s not such a lousy month after all. No fooling!

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

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