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Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on May 1st, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 8 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 8

'Tis a wonderful month for the Queen of the May

BY ARIEL WATERMAN

Happy May Day! The first day of May was originally celebrated by early Teutonic tribes as Walpurgis night and by the Celts as the festival of Beltane. These were times for rejoicing. The warmer weather brought happier expectations of fruitful crops, birthing of lambs and calves in the fields, and renewed activity that had been curtailed by the cold winter months. Now we don ridiculous spandex outfits and run or bicycle around the countryside to the amusement, I am sure, of the lambs and calves in the fields.

May First still has many connotations for different people. The Russians celebrate with parades of military pageantry, rolling out their latest missiles, ICBMs, and other phallic symbols through Red Square. Yeah, yeah, you the man.

The rest of the world observes May with more emphasis on peace than war. The French exchange fragrant lilies-of-the-valley, and Scandinavians dot their countryside with bonfires because, let’s face it, it’s always cold in that part of the world. Just saying the word “Scandinavia” makes me want to put on a sweater.

The English set up tall poles with long, bright ribbons suspended from their tops. Dancers encircle them as they entwine the ribbons around the lengths of these maypoles. Young girls are chosen to be the Queen of the May while morris dancers prance across bridges and through the streets.

I always wondered about morris dancers. Who was Morris and when did he start this dance company? Well, folks, there never was a Morris. Morris dancing dates to the early 15 century moreys daunce or morrisse daunce, meaning Moorish dance, most likely introduced to England by returning crusaders to celebrate their success in driving the Moors out of Europe. We Americans celebrate such feats with fireworks and parades, while the Brits perform morris dances in the streets. Yeah, yeah, you the man.

I’ve personally watched morris dancers when visiting London in 1991. Grown men—clad in pastel costumes, floral bonnets, and myriad small bells tied around their knees—pranced about and clacked two sticks together, reminiscent of early English nunchucks. It was one of the silliest things I’ve ever witnessed, but was still delightfully entertaining.

The first day of May holds lovely memories for me. I remember making May baskets as a child. We’d fill small baskets with freshly picked flowers, then place them on unsuspecting neighbors’ porches, ring their doorbells, and run away. We’d watch from a hiding place across the street as they opened the door and delightfully discovered their May Day bouquets. Mind you, these were the same neighbors upon whose doorsteps we’d leave flaming paper bags of dog poop come Halloween night! Some people just never learn.

I grew up in parochial schools, and May Day was very important to the Catholic faith. The month was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and May Day was her day. A special statue of her was set up in a place of honor in every classroom and each child brought fresh flowers to place at her feet. Mornings all through the month began with a hymn dedicated to her as two special children were chosen each day to carry a little crown of flowers to this small shrine. The crown sat on a satin pillow carried by a boy, and a girl placed the crown on the head.

One morning it was my turn. I was in first grade, and Sister Mary Peccadillo chose me and little Greg Frost to crown the Virgin Mary. I had such a crush on Greggy and simply could not keep my eyes off him. Our classmates sang as we walked around the classroom and up one aisle. I stole yet another sideways glance at my heartthrob, tripped over my own feet, and went fanny over teacups with little Greggy on top of me. The floral crown flew up in the air and did a 10-point, lopsided landing right onto the Virgin Mary’s head. It was a miracle!

Classmates cheered, Sister Peccadillo squawked, and Greg glared at me as we sat outside principal Sister Mary Caligula’s office, awaiting her pronouncement of doom. It was the only time I ever saw her laugh or grant a stay of execution. Another miracle!

The first of May also heralded the countdown to Mother’s Day. When in grade school, I dreamt of how I would one day buy my Mom something expensive. Nothing was too much to express how much I loved her. I owed her everything, and she asked for nothing.

I will never forget the day I found a $20 bill on the sidewalk while on my way to school. Yet another miracle! I was over the moon because Mother’s Day was only days away and I knew just what to get.

I was 11 years old and so excited when we went to the mall that Saturday. I marched straight to the record store and bought Mom the Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass Whipped Cream & Other Delights album that she wanted. I had just enough money left to have my picture drawn for her by a sidewalk artist. She still has that picture and, I think, that silly album.

Mom has given me two of the greatest gifts I have ever received. One came on the first of May 2005 when she insisted I attend a monthly singles potluck held at New Life Nazarene Church in Pismo Beach. I had come out of a bad, sad breakup months before, and Mom insisted that the pity party was over, that it was time to snap out of it and get on with life.

So I threw myself together and went. The place was packed as I entered the hall and looked for a place to sit. I was directed to a single empty chair at a table. I sat down, turned to the gentleman next to me and said hello. He returned my greeting in a rich, English accent, one I have reveled in every day since. May 1, 2005, I met my Brit and he proposed two weeks later. We took his grandson into our hearts and home, adopted our Mini-Brit (now our Britween), and I became a grandmother and mother all in one go! More miracles!

The second wonderful gift my Mom gave me was the support and encouragement to express myself as a writer, and now here we all are! Happy May Day to one and all! Cue the morris dancers! m

 

Ariel Waterman’s mother, Donna, is Queen of the May all year round. All morris dancers please send video auditions to Ariel’s editor, Ryan Miller, at rmiller@santamariasun.com.