March is Spring in Wisconsin. . . And other assumptions

My withering jacket used to be part of my professional adult persona that functioned on too many assumptions to name. The corduroy screamed expert of the college professor kind. I was particularly drawn to the two pockets with silver clasps on the front. I wore the elegant creamy brown confidently as I strode down the halls during my student teaching. The best were cool days when I could wear it as a blazer and part of the outfit instead of an outer covering discarded at the door. The jacket’s longevity in the classroom setting was the reason I afforded it space in my suitcase. Although wilting, the cloth earned its trip home.

“I can patch that worn spot on your jacket. It’s getting to be a pretty big hole.” My aunt’s skill with her sewing machine along with her painted toenails and earrings all the way up one ear lobe never ceased to impress me. The huge hole she saw was where the hook at my apartment in Guatemala where it pushed through an area already very worn.

“But, look at this shoulder. It’s too splotchy to be dirt.”

“Did you try to wash it?”

“Didn’t bother. The streaked patch of paint isn’t going to come out anyway. I backed into a freshly painted wall when Dad and I were fixing things up.” Caryn was right to notice that the jacket was a mess.

“No. It’s okay. I’m using it as a farm jacket. Helping my dad,” I replied. There was lots of miscellaneous clutter on my dad’s to do list. My eyes didn’t distinguish between when the task was done or not, but I helped as he instructed. I raked and carried and cut branches. Accepting the relational nature of determining importance wasn’t new, but admitting it was. “I’ll do it if you want me to,” I said often, “not because I understand why it matters.” On some of the days we worked, March forgot that it was officially a month of spring and remained chilly. I had always dealt better with weather inconsistencies in the fall. After years of teaching, fall felt like a beginning. I didn’t mind a fresh gasp of wind in September, nor did I mind facing my dad’s mess instead of my own. I could solve the easy problems, finish the assigned tasks like when I was a child and my brother and I picked up sticks in the yard for a penny a piece.

“Why isn’t March spring?” It was a rhetorical question really based on assumptions structured by the calendar. My aunt Caryn didn’t need to answer. “Winter should fit more evenly in the year. The winter weeks in March better be short.” There really weren’t any buds to speak of on the branches. The leaves were the size of a fish’s pucker in green shimmer lipstick. I pulled the hood on my Wisconsin sweatshirt over my head to brace against the wind I thought had died since the early morning walk with both dogs. I tied it tight awkwardly with one free hand. It didn’t stay. That particular knot I sought never stayed. The hood slipped down again. It was nice of Caryn to offer to walk Bagel. My dad was working on clean up, raking gravel out of grass and building leaf piles to burn.

Once again finding myself in March with a name that screams Irish, which I am but not the green kind, I decided to make a top ten list of assumptions still pelting me in the face like the snow March can’t seem to let go of.

  1. Because I lived abroad, I know more, especially about Guatemala.

  2. Because I am a middle class white woman, I know less about diversity.

  3. Multicultural is the same as international.

  4. Finding a job when you have a Master’s degree is easy.

  5. Open space is empty space.

  6. Making lists of resources gets them used.

  7. Offending someone else by your choice is malicious and not based in a lack of context on the offending party’s part.

  8. If you don’t have something, you need it.

  9. I have to be in a classroom to be a teacher.

  10. March feels like spring in Wisconsin.

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