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DARRELL HUCKABY: The special rites of March

March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. I’m not sure if it realizes that, but one thing is for sure — you never know what might happen once that month arrives.

I have always been partial to the third month of the year. I was born on a frosty March morning in 1952 and my mama tells me she stayed in the Porterdale hospital for a week recovering from the event. I think they smoked cigarettes right there in the hospital rooms back then. Oh, the good old days.

March used to mean that the population of Newton County would descend upon Alexander Memorial Coliseum — the Big Dome — in Atlanta for the state tournament. Rockdale folks would all travel to Macon. It was a great week. We — the Rams — would stay in a fancy Atlanta hotel for the week and take our meals at the S&S Cafeteria on Peachtree Street. Man did I feel important walking up and down the halls of the Marriott Hotel in my blue blazer and grey slacks, sliding my wingtip shoes on the plush hallway carpet and touching Bruce Lynch and Kevin Price on the ear, just to watch them jump from the static electricity.

March always has, and still does, mean that spring training is underway in the Grapefruit League. I used to look forward to the opening of baseball season as much as I now look forward to the first football game of the fall. I still get a special kick out of it, but million dollar salaries and four-hour games have taken the luster off of baseball for me just a tad.

I was a Yankees fan growing up. George Steinbrenner broke me of that, much in the same way Jimmy Carter broke me of supporting the Democratic Party. I used to spend hours in front of our little Philco radio, listening through the static, hoping to hear Mickey Mantle or Whitey Ford’s name mentioned.

March also meant the daffodils would be popping up and the dogwoods would be thinking about opening. Occasionally I would see a tulip toward the end of the month and I would usually forgo my ice cream cones and Cherry Cokes at Standard Pharmacy after school in order to fill up my Lenten folder with dimes.

A friend, who was also raised in the Methodist Church, recently assured me, in a particularly hostile tone, that no minister had ever asked her to give up anything for lent or any other church occasion. I bet dollars to donuts that person put her dimes in a Lenten folder when she was a little girl.

March also meant kite season was upon us. I had as much trouble flying a kite as good old Charlie Brown. Kite-eating trees were not my problem. My problem was getting the thing off the ground. Usually my kites were too heavy, because I made them out of elm branches and cast off Atlanta Constitutions. The tails were made from scraps from my mama’s sewing. A bath tub would have about as much chance of lifting off the ground as my home-made kites.

That didn’t stop me from trying, though. My playmate, Linda King, would hold the kite in the air and I would take off running down the hill, my kite trailing behind me. When I would stop running, the kite would crash to the ground.

I would insist that Linda wasn’t “holding the kite right” and we would switch places. Then, of course, the problem would be that Linda “wasn’t running fast enough.” We spent a lot of hours and expended a lot of energy trying to get those kites off the ground.

Now I buy a store bought kite every time I go to the beach. They have long streamers for tails and I can just hold them up against the wind and watch them soar into the air and out across the ocean with little or no effort at all on my part. For some reason, however, flying a store-bought kite isn’t nearly as satisfying as those few magical moments when Linda King and I would get one of our creations to “stay up” for just a few moments.

March means St. Patrick’s Day, of course. Truth be known, I had no real idea where Ireland was when I was a kid or why a guy named Patrick had his own holiday, but I knew that if I didn’t wear my green shirt to school that day everybody and his brother would pinch the fire out of me all day.

March is still special for me and I have tried to make the most of each and every moment the month has to offer. Believe it or not, we have already used up a third of it — and every day has been special. I can’t wait to see what the last two-thirds brings.

Don’t forget to go shopping for a green outfit. I hear the pinchers will be out in full force this year.