As April 7th approaches, I anticipate what has become inevitable these last few years: sudden emotional unraveling as I move through spring. It’s never the date of his birth in April that that brings up feelings of grief, nor is it the anniversary of his death, one month later in May. No. It’s the time in between. It’s watching the snow melt, the ground soften, the trees bud, the pale leaves shimmer. It’s the smell of early spring in Vermont, a visceral memory, the last month of my husband’s life contained in the world coming alive. But what’s different this year is that I’m not in Vermont to feel the natural world turn in the same way. I’m across the ocean in Slovenia.
And so I wonder how it will be different.
On April 7th this year, I will be with my daughter and my mother, three generations of American women, drinking bela kava and eating toast brez šunke in the bright sky of a spring that’s already arrived. No mud to drive through, no standing on a wrap around porch high above the dirt roads of rural Vermont, staring across the valley–the same porch my mother and I stood on the day after my husband died. She’d flown in from California after I’d screamed at someone to please tell her to come. And she did. The next day, we stood on the porch together. She told me that my children and I should move into a new house.
“I worry about the three of you being isolated,” my mother said. “I mean, it’s pretty here, but I just wish there was a town at the bottom of this hill for you–a place you could walk to, sit in the sun, have a cup of coffee.”
And now, here it is, four years later. My mother will come again to see me in the springtime. But everything is different now. We will weave through an antique city, sit in a café by the river, drink kuhano rdeče vino if it is chilly. I will tell her that I just finished the work of my Fulbright. The chapter’s been written and rewritten over the last few years and it’s been read by trusted readers. It’s as done as I can make it be. My mother will be happy for me, proud of my tenacity, thankful for the help I’ve received.
Today, a few days before my mother’s arrival, I sat in the sun with one of my trusted readers.
“The work you’ve done on this project will begin to move away from you now,” he said to me over črni čaj. “It won’t be something of your own anymore. You will have to let it go.” I felt tears in my eyes, but didn’t let them fall.
What is most different about this spring is that I won’t be curled up inside this work anymore. I will be forced to venture out, to peek my head from the safety I’ve felt inside its walls these last few years–the sanctuary of my own little story. I know its every nuance.
My trusted reader said, “It’s time to start writing a new story.” I can’t imagine what that will be. It’s almost April, it’s almost May. But everything is different this year. The whole world has changed.