"Winter's done and April's in the skies,
Earth, look up with laughter in your eyes!"
While living in Europe, compliments of Uncle Sam, our family spent a few days in London, even though we should have known our pre-teenaged sons wouldn't be as thrilled about scouring the inside of Westminster Abbey as we were.
But what a surprise it was when one of the boys made a discovery that turned their bored, can't-we-go-somewhere-else sighs into, "Hey! What a neat place!"
That "neat" thing which had completely escaped the attention of the elder half of the family was totally in the cross hairs of two down-cast heads: The stones beneath our feet in every aisle of that monstrous cathedral were all inscribed with the names and birth dates of famous people, and No. 1 son had found someone whose birthday was the same day as his.
Before long his brother also found a match, and the vacation was saved - thanks to a German missionary named Albert Schweitzer and his Scottish counterpart, David Livingstone.
I remembered this incident about the time the calendar turned from March to April this year, which sent me to my cherished "Ben Franklin's Almanac" for other famous names or events with April connections. What a surprise - again - to learn that my two, April-born grandchildren share their special day with the birth of William Shakespeare and man's first flight in space by Russian cosmonaut Yury Gargarin.
So, just in case you or your progeny need something to add sparkle to your vacation, or celebrity status to your April celebration, here are a few items for you to consider.
April 1: April fool's day had a legendary start, even if the practice of playing pranks on each other was not its original purpose. The "fool" could have been April fish, which the French say are easily caught, or capricious April weather which, as farmers and Masters golf enthusiasts know, is hard to predict. Actress Debbie Reynolds was born on this date in 1932.
First April Sunday (through 2006): First day of Daylight Savings Time - which began briefly in this country in 1918, reappeared during World War II and was set on this date in 1966 - was but another brainchild of Benjamin Franklin, who proposed the idea in Paris in 1784, believing Parisians could save on candles "if the light of the Sun was used from the moment it rises each day."
April 8: Hank Aaron hit home run No. 715, breaking Babe Ruth's record, in 1974.
April 15: Ironically, the date in 1954 when the "Ides (middle) of March" tax deadline - a throwback to the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. - was moved to April 15, 42 years to the day after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. This year, however, offers some solace for that taxing date: Since the 15th falls on a weekend, you have two extra days to make that mad dash to the Post Office; and Easter, the most glorious day in the Christian church year, falls on the same weekend.
April 18 and 19: "Twas the 18th of April," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded us, when Paul Revere made his midnight ride warning the Patriots that "the British are coming;" and the 19th, of which fellow poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world." The American Revolution had begun.
April 24: And in one more tribute to both Franklin and the new Columbia County Library: On this date in 1731 our fatherliest Founding Father began the first circulating library in North America, which led to America's first stationary library in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on April 9, 1733.
So, with a mix of good fishing, bad weather, opening buds (from the Latin word aperire which gives April its name), sinking ships, libraries to house good writing, and a revolution that brought this country freedom and taxation by our own will, this fourth month of the year offers much to celebrate or remember - especially if the births and birthdays of two special grandchildren are included.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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