I filed my tax returns yesterday, went to the main post office in Portland, walked into the circa 1932 building and put them in the big chute mailbox, just like I did before there was an internet.
Tradition can be such a comfort.
In our turbo-speed world, it may be easier to file electronically, to send my annual report of income and deductions and credits into the ether along with information about how to debit my bank account for the balance due, but I prefer to mail the physical return and a paper check off to Hartford, Connecticut.
There, in what I picture as a gray building with grim slits for windows, I imagine a skeleton crew toiling in a giant, echoing mailroom, because probably only a handful of us still cling to the old way of carrying out the mid-April ritual.
Last month we traveled to Massachusetts for my family’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party, which remains pretty much the same from year to year even though my siblings and I are the oldest generation now.
Niece Bridget made the corned beef and cabbage and my sister Kate made mutton pies—individual two-crust lamb pies seasoned with salt, pepper and cinnamon, dropped into simmering lamb broth until they are soft and heated through. My grandmother learned to make them from her mother when she was a girl in County Kerry. She in turn taught my mother, who taught my sister. This year Kate had mutton pie help from her son and his five-year-old daughter Keegan, who seems to have inherited the baking gene.
I cherish St. Patrick’s Day with my family. It’s such a happy gathering. Winter’s on the run, a perfect time to gather around the table to visit and eat, listen to traditional tunes and applaud Caeley, the next-to-the youngest in the clan, as she dances the reels and jigs she’s mastered this year.
Diane’s birthday is in May, which she (and everyone else I know who has a May birthday) insists is the best month of the year to have been born. Given that it’s the month in Maine when the tulips shoot from the earth and the lilacs perfume the air, I think she’s right about that.
May is when songbirds migrate back to Maine, and in the days around Diane’s birthday it’s become our custom to take part in the Maine Audubon Society’s warbler walks in Portland. Some days this happens at Evergreen Cemetery, others at Capisic Pond. Along with an Audubon naturalist, expert birders and beginners like me spend a hushed hour trying to spot and identify Redstarts, Chestnut-sideds and Black-Throated Greens. It’s become a treasured annual ritual, and I look forward to taking part again in a few weeks.
Today is Patriots’ Day, celebrated in Maine and Massachusetts and definitely in our household, because it is the day (most years) we put the cold frame on one of the raised beds and plant chard and early salad greens.
If there is a more satisfying spring ritual than putting your hands in the dirt and your hope in a handful of tiny seeds, I sure don’t know what it is.
These rituals—hard-copy tax returns, St. Patrick’s Day revelry, hopeful May birding, planning and planting the garden—are my springtime signposts. What are the things you do every year this time to mark the earth’s awakening?
Brenda Buchanan is the author of the Joe Gale Mystery Series, featuring a diehard Maine newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Three books—QUICK PIVOT, COVER STORY and TRUTH BEAT—are available everywhere e-books are sold. She is writing a new series that has as its protagonist a Portland criminal defense lawyer willing to take on cases others won’t touch in a town to which she swore she would never return.