Around here it seems everyone has been saying, “Thursday is May first,” as if something magical might happen that day: the sun would shine, temperatures rise, and trees and flowers bloom. Before you read any farther, take a moment to think of your own associations with May, both the month and even just the word, and then I’ll share mine.
The first thought that came to my mind was the Maypole and dancing around the Maypole. Memory is such a strange and wonderful thing that at this remove I don’t know if my father really tied streamers on the flagpole to make a Maypole , or I just think he did because I wanted to dance around one. The same is true of hanging a tiny basket of flowers on a friend’s doorknob. I think that happened.
I know that May 1 is International Workers’ Day and that Cinco de Mayo is, duh, on the fifth, but these days never had personal meaning for me. However, my second son was born on May 12th, and this year he will 50, so, without a doubt, I can no longer be 50!
May is the month of Mary, a time when, in the Catholic church, special prayers and devotions are offered to the Virgin Mary. Growing up, the Catholic girls in my class wore blue ribbons on their dresses all month, and the local Catholic church had a special procession of school children in which it was a great honor for a girl to be selected to place a bouquet at the feet of the statue of the Blessed Mother. Several years I went to see the procession, but what I really wanted was to be in it.
Mayday Mayday Mayday is the international distress code and comes from the French “venez m’aider” which means “come help me.” Then there is the very familiar ship “The Mayflower” as well as the flower with that name.
And maybe you as a child played “Mother, may I?” as I did or been instructed in school to say may I and not can I about any number of things.
Then into my head popped the old nursery rhyme, “Mother may I go out to swim?” “ Yes my darling daughter. Hang your clothes on the hickory stick but don’t go near the water.”
On a more general note, I read recently that the month of May, which is the shortest name of all the months, probably got its name from Maia, the Roman goddess of spring and growth. Appropriate, don’t you think?
© Dorothy C. Judd
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