Saturday, May 7, 2011

May Day

Today is May Day in Mendon.  
May Day 2006 (Photo by Karole Sorensen)
This is the first May Day we've missed in seven years.  It's the first time since 2003 that one of my girls hasn't been dancing around a May Pole on the Square.  

There are definitely a few things I won't miss about today.  I never loved the part where I had to sew May Day dresses...sewing isn't my greatest skill and people who sew ALWAYS say that the pattern is so simple, but it never is.  One year I sewed THREE dresses that were not even a little bit simple!  

And I never loved the part where the girls danced outside in unbelievably cold weather (which was most of the years, I think, because while May = spring in most parts of the country, May in Mendon is always a little reluctant to let go of winter.)  Somehow, though, the ominous weather manages to hold out until 10:30am when the dancing is over and the poles have all been unbraided.

But there are TONS of things I love about May Day.  I love that it's the first official sign of spring.  I love that the entire community pools their efforts every single year to put together the most amazing celebration of tradition I have ever seen.  It's one of those consistent and reliable things that I was drawn to even before I realized it.  So today while May Day happens without us in Mendon, I am paying my small tribute to it all the way from Texas.  

Here are my favorite parts of May Day and the things I'll miss the most about today...
  • Norma Myers  I love this woman!  (I wish I had a picture of her.)  She plays the piano rain or shine, out in the park, in elementary school gyms, in churches, for every practice three days a week from March until May.  They wheel her out on the bed of a truck for the final week of practices and then for the actual event she sits at a piano inside a dilapidated old gazebo that I think has been around since the first Mendon May Day celebration 149 years ago.  She is the only person I've ever seen play the May Day songs and I'm convinced she's the only one on the planet who knows them all by heart.  When we lived there, I secretly wanted to be the next Norma Myers!  When I get back to Mendon, I'm going to hug that woman and tell her how much I appreciate her consistency and reliability.   
  • The Dress Reveal:  Every year one of the Young Women-aged girls selects the May Day dress pattern and makes a prototype to be revealed at the annual May Day parent meeting. (This year, TCD's best friend was the seamstress!)  All the 1st through 5th grade girls in the community come with their moms to get instructions for the upcoming event.  So many of them have danced the May Day program for so many years, though, that the real reason they're always there is to see the dresses!!  There is always a Big Girl dress in one color and a Little Girl dress in a contrasting color, and the ribbons used to braid around the poles coordinate with their dresses.  

May Day 2005 - TCD = Little Girl
May Day 2006 - TCD = Big Girl/Spell Girl = Little Girl
May Day 2007 - Spell Girl and June = Little Girls (these were my favorite dresses)
May Day 2008 (this is the year I made THREE dresses WITH ZIPPERS!)
June = Little Girl

  • Fancy hair-dos:
May Day 2004 - TCD's hair courtesy of Gaylene Merritt

May Day 2006 - Spell Girl's hair courtesy of Lauri Anderson
May Day 2008 - June's hair courtesy of Angie Keller's crimper

  • 100 little girls in matching dresses:  It is an amazing and inspiring thing to watch 100 little girls holding hands in coordinated dresses walking onto the Square.  For a few minutes they are beautiful, perfect angels. 
May Day 2010

  • The Finished May Poles:  I've watched the program 7 times.  I've sat through countless practices.  I was even a May Day leader once.  And I still couldn't begin to explain how the ribbons go from individual strands to intricately and perfectly woven braids around a pole.  It will forever be one of those things that I'm happily clueless about, I'm sure. 

AND...the very best part of May Day for me, and the thing I will be thinking about most today...

  • The Hamburger Stand:  These are totally ordinary hamburgers made by totally ordinary volunteers, who somehow turn them into the most extraordinary thing I've ever eaten...really!  I have been behind the scenes inside that place and I've seen how they're made.  There's nothing magic about them.  But there is absolutely nothing like the first hamburger of the season.  It's the sign of winter ending.  It's the official signal for everyone to come out of hibernation and reconnect with the rest of the community.  It's the beginning of summer.  I'm pretty sure I can smell them from here...

 Happy May Day, Mendon!

1 comment:

  1. I love this tradition! I've never heard of or seen anything like that before! Hooray for small towns like mendon who put priorities on traditions & celebrations like that!
    And sewing a zipper??!?! No way!!!