April in Glenwood: Goodbye, sweethearts
For the last 13 years, my work has defined me.
Psychologists might say this is a less-than-ideal approach to life. They might say a job should express my personality rather than determine it. That work is not my worth. It shouldn’t define my dignity, purpose or happiness. I say try being a columnist for a living.
That’s been a part of every aspect of my life.
In September 2004, I walked into our old Grand Avenue newsroom, now the site of a bank, unaware my life would change in ways I never saw coming. I had applied for the community editor position, involving everything from writing obits and birth announcements to outreach and engaging with readers at public events. The job wasn’t for a beat reporter, which my formal journalism education had trained me to be, and it was before social media exploded.
This was more of a people-person position.
I was game, with the promise a reporter job might arise to send me out on deadline-specific assignments and in-depth feature writing. What did come with the gig was the challenge to write a weekly column. I eagerly accepted. I started slowly, mostly talking community events. Not so much of what was happening in my everyday world. My editors soon discovered I had much to share about my crazy life.
No one knew how much that would change for me over the years.
My best column advice came thanks to former PI editor, friend and mentor Dale Shrull. He told me to be myself. Let people in on how I was feeling. Basically get personal — real personal. Have fun with wit and sarcasm, but be wary of calling April in Glenwood a humor column.
Mostly because not everyone would think I was funny.
Luckily people did get a laugh at my expense because, well, there were just so many aspects of my life that were comical. Dating was fodder for funny stories on my tendency, and that of those I pursued, to not fully commit. I sure talked up how much I wanted marriage and babies in my 30s. In hindsight, I was on a completely opposite path that was more about learning to love myself. To foster the independence I now know was necessary to find happiness and fulfill a role of wife and mother.
The Rocky Mountains are a perfect place for single self-discovery.
What I didn’t expect from becoming a columnist — because it’s truly a part of my being — is the people who came into my life simply because they recognized my face. Strangers would see me and say, “Hey, you’re the girl from the paper.” I knew if someone wasn’t a huge fan of my writing because they would say, “You’re the one that writes the little column in the paper.” I’d chuckle I because I knew there’s nothing little about it. Putting life’s personal moments out there, in print and online, can feel like stripping down to your skivvies and jumping in the Penny Hot Springs.
Column writing and nakedness present their own share of vulnerabilities.
I’ve made so many friends and developed networks through column writing. The first time I met my friend Eddie Fralick, he was tending the back bar at the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub. I was enjoying an IPA, and he wanted to know when I would write about him in my column. He had the most endearing Southern drawl and sweetest laugh. The Glenwood community — he knew everyone — lost him on March 12, 2014, and I know he’s smiling down somewhere knowing he made it in the last April in Glenwood. I also know he would be sassy about his disappointment, as I am in this decision of which I have no control, and would want to march right over to the paper and talk to someone about it.
Maybe he already has.
Because of this column, we shared a powerful bond. I’ll always be grateful for the love and laughter he brought to my life. There are also so many others I’ve said goodbye to here in the space as they passed. My 104-year-old soulmate Julian, a Glenwood legend. My funny Grandpa Bud, whom I love dearly. PI community editor Kay Vasilakis, also forever in my heart. She’s smiling, too, because I have my little 21-month-old guy, Will. She always wanted to see me with a ring on my left hand and a baby on my right hip, and much to my surprise, that’s reality. There’s also Mary Borkenhagen, a friendly face who greeted readers at the PI front desk for years. So creative, witty and smart. I miss her. And copy/food editor Gabrielle Devenish, who had the kind of spunk I appreciate, but I never had the chance to tell her. I wish she could’ve fought off the demons of her eating disorder that ultimately claimed her life. I think of her appreciation of Champagne and girly stuff often.
All are missed by the valley, and beyond.
I’ve also shared my self-deprecating humor found in the fun times with my close valley friends — you know who you are. There were wild moments on the river, embarrassing dating faux pas and endless late nights in Glenwood and Carbondale’s social and performing arts scenes. I shared my story of fearfully learning stand-up comedy and burlesque here. And the frightening moments of miscarrying, getting pregnant and later giving birth to a preemie. These are all accounts I’m thankful to have documented. In the most emotional of times, writing has been therapeutic and cleansing.
I’m a better mother for it.
I honestly thought I might write this column until I took my last breath. That may sound over-dramatic, but it’s true. I love Glenwood Springs. I love the people. And I love being a columnist. I’m hoping all this love can be filtered into something new and different, as fate has directed me. I won’t forget the nerves I had when seeing my first column run more than a decade ago, and the feelings I have in penning this farewell. I also don’t regret letting my work define me all these years.
I’ll always be April in Glenwood.
April E. Allford never missed a week of writing her column. She can be reached at email@example.com.