Early in my childhood, we celebrated May Day. My mother would cut forsythia and pussy willow and set them into a crystal vase once belonging to my father's mother. Mother Brown and Auntie Brown would visit laden with a small tin of dry biscuits and ask my mother if she still had any canned plums from last years putting up. I recall sitting next to plump Mother Brown inhaling her spicey saucey fragrance while swishing my cookie in a tumbler of milk and eating the canned plums.
Mother Brown's hair was wild and fluffy with curl - a bit Einsteinish - and silver with black undertones, her eyes were huge black brown and she jiggled. Her laugh jiggled her even more. She was unpretentious, liked colour and said, "Ohh George!" a lot. Auntie Brown was quiet and delicate, classically beautiful, kept a beehive perched atop her head and called both me and her black Cocker Spaniel, "Lovey" and "Lover." It didn't seem to matter. She whispered when she spoke but projected all the way to Town when she sang. I would sit eating my plums and stare at Auntie and Mother Brown.
May Day was sort of like a spring Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day reprisal - thankful winter was behind and that spring was now in full tilt. It had the added quirk in that if there was a special someone in your life, or you wanted them to be a special someone, you made a point of secretly leaving them a May Day Basket which not only delivered flowers but a message explaining your admiration for them, but never identifying yourself as the admirer.
The general focus was thankfulness and joy, for and in the world and people around us. We admired the greening earth, unfolding pockets of bright flowers, daffodils, periwinkle, violets - trees on the brink of full leaf and the clear songs and return of the birds. And the bush - the bush- was now fairly bursting alive with life. I recall weaving two tiny triangular paper baskets folded in half to hold a bunch of carefully gathered flowers and budding twigs which were presented, one to my mother and one to my father, who received his out in the field when we took him his supper.
It is a quaint little tradition which was eventually lost in my growing up and unfortunately, I never carried on with my own children. I realize now, more than ever, the need to make time and space for these little occasions of life. We did Easter and Christmas but it is all these little threads which tie generation to generation, down through generations. These are the little remembrances - no long hours in the kitchen producing fancy one of a kind dishes appearing but once a year. No. Just a jar of home canned plums. We ate them all winter, but when placed on the table on May Day - well, it became one of those little celebrations.
Sometimes things got in the way which I should not have allowed, but did. It was easy to let some of these unique family traditions slip past. Quaint remembrances. Who will carry on? I feel it more now than ever - Violinist getting married - Speedy speeding in yesterday to tell us he is speeding off to the other side of the country this morning.
I always associated May Day with canned plums and Mother Brown. I had Mother Brown's memory, the crystal vase, but never any canned plums nor forsythia or pussy willows. The pussy willow I did plant, back of the Shop from Hell, GG chopped down because, "It will wreck the foundation." Well, I'm bringing it back. Here my May Day flowers once more. I still don't have any canned plums but am full of thankfulness for the new season bursting upon us and reaffirm to the ones around me, my love for them and for the Creator who provides all this. Happy May Day.
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