When I was a little girl I looked forward to the first of May with more happiness and anticipation than I did Christmas!! It was my chance to sneak in and surprise those I loved and it was the best feeling of the entire year!! If it happened to fall on a school day, I was distracted all day long dreaming of what I would put in my baskets. I would watch the clock just waiting to escape that prison and I would spend the day plotting my approach, until I could get to Gram’s house! After school I would hot foot it up her driveway and run in the front door announcing “I’m home, Gram, are you ready?” “I’m ready, Sister, you bet!” I would hear her call from the den! We would carefully unstack the strawberry baskets (you remember the plastic green ones?) that she had saved for me throughout the strawberry season the year before and we would head to the long table in the kitchen. We had the best ribbon from the store that you could curl with the side of your scissors, and we would have all of the beautiful spring colors–light blue, yellow, pink, white, green, purple, beautiful colors laid on the table like a rainbow bringing sheer happiness to the whole house. Then she would hand me my favorite things…the paper doilies!! They were so delicate and beautiful that you had to be so careful not to tear them when you peeled them apart. She handed me one for each basket. Then it began. Assembling each little basket with the right amount of candy, notes, and jelly beans, I would use a pipe cleaner for the handle, and next the real fun began!
My Gram’s yard was an adventure for a little girl. I loved walking out the front door to see the walk way and the drive way lined with beautifully manicured roses. She was a rose gardener like I have never seen. She was particularly fond of her Mr. Lincoln rose bush and the beautiful orange colored Tropicana. The crab apple tree with its expansive limbs was perfect for climbing, the wisteria vine as big as a house, smoke bushes you could run through pretending it was fire, and back along the alley fence, tucked away behind the pines like a secret kept just for me on May Day, the lilacs. They smelled so sweet and they always knew that on the first of May they must bloom because they had an important job….to be beautiful. Gram and I walked out always holding hands, to those beautiful bushes and I would always get in a hurry and want to break off a few of the blooms, but she would’t allow that!! No way!!! Very carefully, she would tenderly cut each bloom with her floral cutters so as not to damage the stalk. “Be kind” she would say, “they are going to make a lot of people happy, they deserve your kindness.” She was so right!!
Back to the baskets I would go placing those beautiful flowers in each one, then we loaded up in the car! First stop was always Grandma and Carole Jean’s house!!! We pulled only up to the curb so I could make a fast get away! I ran up, hung it on the front door knob, rang the door bell and ran! I knew I could get there before either of them because Grandma was old and Carole Jean had crutches!! Next came Heidi. We drove down through the barn yard slowly and quietly and when we got to the circle drive, Gram faced the car toward the long drive out to the highway. She waited patiently as I hopped out, ran to the door, left it on the step, rang the bell and ran back!! “Hit it Gram!!! She’s gonna catch us!!” Breathing heavy I turned around to look back and I could see the door open and I know she saw us….Crap. Gram’s friends, Glenna and Venus were the next but I could beat them, they were old too! Then on to the drug store to just hand them to Daddy and Bop because they were working and then I took one to Mom. There were always others, but these are my favorite people.
As I have grown up and the years have flown passed, I still long for the First of May. That is the chance to renew your spirit, the earth awakens from winters curse, birds sing, things get beautiful again and you have the opportunity to renew your own hope. Th’ Gatherin’ was that celebration for me and my family. It was a huge milestone during the year to walk through the fire and celebrate quite literally survival. It is also when I remember those I love who have passed to the next life. My Gram is here this morning. She saying, “Let’s go Sister! Get on with the happy!” My Dad has been close for a few days, I swear I smelled his cigarette. I can hear my Bop’s wild laughter and cackle. I am never alone. The veil between this life and Heaven is gossamer thin. I just have to listen.
So, today, walk in the grass barefooted, find a lilac, breathe deep, say your gratitude prayer and maybe even build a May basket. Here’s to the coming of the Light Half of the year. Give a hug.
Love, Beltane, Light