May Day! May Day!

Happy May Day!

Today marks the beginning of weeks of constant thought about my mother. Why, you ask? Because not only is my wonderful mother’s birthday in May, and Mother’s Day (they’re often the same day), my mother also used to take us to leave posies of flowers on doorsteps in the dawn hours of May Days.

Back when we were wee, she used to drive us around Auburn to hang them on our teachers’ doorsteps, to express our appreciation for them. This was, of course, back in the days when the prospect of your students knowing where you lived wasn’t terrifying.

When we were really broke, or fresh flowers weren’t available, we’d make bouquets of paper flowers, sturdy construction paper tulips, and tissue paper daffodils of dubious morphology. If we were anywhere within driving distance of friends or loved ones, we’d leave them flowers too.

When we moved to Aroostook, May Day became a much colder occasion. May Day in the North arrives amidst patches of snow still left in the shady places in the woods, heat beating off last year’s field grasses, and cold, cold snowmelt in all the wet spots. In contrast, today I’m sitting in central Maine, looking out my window at a decent head of green grass on the lawn, and the sudden popping of the first dandelion tufts.

In the wide horizons of the County, I used to take myself out in the early hours of May 1st to go pick my mother a May Day bouquet. The first few years I would range over the entire front half of our land–through the trail we cut through the woods, over the farm road, along the beaver dam, near the outcrops of trees in the fields–in search of flowers in bloom.

It took me the first few years of roaming with my dog to realize that there would be no variety in her bouquet year to year. Like clockwork, I could not only tell you what the composition of her bouquet would be, but also where exactly the I would find each bloom. The only variation was if it was unseasonably warm, and I was unreasonably lucky, I might find colts’ foot in bloom on a specific sloping edge of a particular section of old beaver dam.

Just as my bouquet for my mother is an almanac point in my love and admiration for her, her acceptance of an unchanging, unshowy bouquet of wildflowers and greens is an almanac point for me in the boundless understanding a mother has of her children.

I now live far South of the farm, and my mother lives far to the South of me, but she still emails us on May Day, and I still have to get up real early if I want to beat my mother to call her before she calls me.

Spring daffy-down-dillys and last fall's spicy oregano.

Spring daffy-down-dillys and last fall’s spicy oregano.

This morning I picked daffodils from the banks of the outlet stream below China Lake to bring to the office. I called my mother as I was filling up the voluptuous vase my friend Win made, and we talked in the morning sun with spring growth breaking out all over the bank, stretching in the sun. My mother approves of all things beautiful and unique, and I know she’d love this year’s bouquet if only my arms were long enough to get it to Maryland.

Happy May Day–I hope yours is beautiful and unique, and you think of your mother. Or you know, workers of the world uniting, which would still qualify.


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