Monday, May 4, 2015

Here's to Mom: Queen of the May



APRIL  26  May Day Memories
If September were a little less wonderful here and summer heat held off a bit longer, May would be hands-down my favorite month of the year. And it’s still a major contender.
It was no contest when I was growing up in Michigan.
Even if June through August had more reliable weather, May had the major advantage of offering the first real relief from the long winter months.
Apple trees were in blossom. So were crocus, tulips, daffodils, lilacs, if I remember right, and lots of woodland wildflowers, including my personal faves, jack-in-the-pulpit, a rare and lovely little orchid, columbines and the aptly named Mayflowers.
Some of my earliest childhood memories involved collecting tiny bouquets of early bloomers in the yard, or wildflowers in the forest. We would occasionally press a few prize specimens between sheets of white paper or paper towels, tucked in the pages of thick books. We checked them impatiently and then usually forgot about them until they fell out, dry, brittle and faded, during a summer vacation search for something to read. Then, if we were feeling bored or creative enough, we’d arrange them into masterpieces suitable for framing or greeting cards.
But in the meantime, back in flowery May prime time, we strung big blossoms from our catalpa trees to make Midwestern leis and floral wreaths to crown our heads.
Then, if we were in a springy mood, and we almost certainly were, we’d dance.
In those days, most of us had outdoor poles and lines to dry our clothes, and my art teacher, scout leader mom was a genius at transforming the utilitarian structure into a fiesta site. Banners and streamers were added and a Maypole was born.
Naturally, we danced around it. That’s what Maypoles, whatever their origins, are for, after all.
There were other important rituals to attend to, and we were on the case.
In a kind of flowery, reverse trick-or-treat routine, we made paper cones with little stapled ribbon handles, decorated them, filled them with flowers, hung them from the front doorknobs at the homes of our friends and neighbors, rang their doorbells and ran off as fast as we could.
If the landscape permitted, we’d try to hide behind a nearby bush, tree or fence and watch the reaction. If our May Day “victim” was home, the reaction was always rewarding: surprise, a smile, a look around. The best sports would pretend to ignore the benevolent pranksters hiding in plain site.
We’d giggle a lot. And maybe go home and finish the Brownie Scout meeting, or have another dance around the Maypole, dreaming of being Queen of the May.
But in my memory, that title always goes to mom. May 1 was her birthday, and those celebrations and Mother’s Day are forever linked in my mind. My sister presented mom with her first grandchild, beautiful Brandy, on May 1, and her second, my sweet son Ryan, was also a May baby.
Mays are a little bittersweet now.
After decades in high-desert country, I think of May as the time when the heat rises, time to turn off the furnace and turn on the AC or swamp cooler.
But it’s also the time, in the best years, when the desert explodes with late wildflowers and vivid displays of cactus in bright hues of fuchsia, purple, red, pink and yellow. The swirling, Technicolor skirts of Cinco de Mayo folklorico dancers remind me of our childhood spring fiestas.
And I can’t help thinking that my imaginative mom would have found a way for us to transform a big agave, a stalwart seguaro or a red-flagged ocotillo into a Maypole, and devised a way to dance around it without getting prickled or stabbed.
If anyone could manage such a feat, it would be my mom. She was magic. She was Queen of the May. I miss her and wish we could join with her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids for one more Maypole dance.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.



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