April 30th, 2008
An early memory: I might have been three or four. My sister, the eldest, is crinkling in a pastel spring dress, her hair curly, and wearing shiny black patent leather shoes. Who knows where my brother is? Me, I’m in brown corduroy slacks. They make a zwoop-zwoop noise as I walk, as the the crenelated surfaces of the material brush together between my legs. I’m wearing a shirt with buttons and a collar. Odd. My sister is holding my hand, and we are going to a park, where the village is hosting a May Pole party. My sister gives me instructions: “Just hold on to the ribbon, and walk in a circle. Don’t run! Follow the others.” She might be seven years old. I am more than a bit mystified. Afterwards, there were refreshments; icky-sweet kool-aide, and crumbly cookies. Even at that age, I’d been to better parties before.
Not too many years later on, I recall browsing in Life magazine a photo-spread of the May Day celebrations in Moscow’s Red Square. The endless parade of tanks, artillery, goose-stepping soldiers, and missiles, missiles, missiles. There was Khrushchev, grinning like Beelzebub, saluting the procession. As parades go, and even without fire trucks, they had a Maypole Dance beat all to heck. “How cool!”, thought I, at nine.
Last year, I discovered the web-based singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, who happens to have written a song called “First of May”. Don’t make the mistake (like I did) of playing that in the car as you ferry your teen daughter and her boyfriend around. In my defense, and at the time, I hadn’t really bothered to listen closely to the lyrics, which are a general celebration of outdoor fornication made possible by the arrival of spring.
At least Coulton has gotten closer to the core of matter: May Day is the herald of a season of fecundity. No phallic May Poles, cannons, nor ICBM’s on his mind. Just a frank paean celebrating being natural in nature. Don’t forget the sunscreen! 🙂
May Day also associates with Beltane, the ancient Gaelic or Pagan celebration of spring, marked by bonfires of juniper boughs. Read in Wikipedia about Beltane and Maypoles .
My plan for May Day is to have a little bonfire of my own, weather permitting, after rites of purification around the house with the Hoover to get ready for Ann’s return home. Anything beyond that, I’ll have to clear with the Druid Goddess, herself…
Happy May Day, readers!