Thursday, May 1, 2014

My Old Friend ,May

Ahhhhh.....it's May!  May always makes me feel a little nostalgic..........like a school kid again.  A May day has a different look about it....they're just a little brighter and clearer than other days of the year.  The birds sing just a little louder.  It's a month that brings back happy memories for me.       

Back in the day, when the calendar was turned from April to May, I'd get that excited feeling in my stomach as all of us, kids, knew that the end of school was getting so, so close.  Invariably, sometime in the month of May, our class would enjoy some kind of special day whether it was a May Day at the school, a field trip out of town, or a day at a local attraction.  Regardless, it meant that there was no classwork that day. 

I remember one year, my Mama bought me a pink and brown striped shirt with matching pink jeans at the local Sears Roebuck for my May field trip.  I believe it was Garanimals and who didn't feel extra chic in those?  I got on the bus that year feeling extra cocky. I also remember that, for some reason, she always washed my tennis shoes the night before a field trip.  I suppose it was from the same school of thought as having clean underwear in case of an accident.  On the morning of the big day, if the shoes weren't quite dry, the hair dryer would take turns in each shoe to dry up the last bit of moisture.    

Field trip day meant that I didn't carry my usual Muppet Show metal lunchbox and thermos.  No, field trips were brown bag occasions.  Since there was no thermos involved, my mother would wrap the Chek cola flavor of my choice in a few layers of aluminum foil as this was the cutting edge of drink insulation in the 70's.  Throw in a Little Debbie, some Golden Flake chips in a fold over sandwich bag with a PBJ and you were ready to get on the bus.
May also brought the dreaded piano recital.  It was always something you hated, but you knew in order to get to those 3 golden, lesson-less summer months that you had to do it and get it over with.  I loathed piano lessons when I was little.  I didn't mind them so much when I got to be a teenager, but when I was younger......yeah, loathe would be the appropriate word.  I was always woefully unprepared for my lesson each week and by the time I left the teacher's house at 4:30 on Thursday afternoon, it felt like the world had been lifted from my 9 year old shoulders.  Every, single day, while the sun was shining, the birds were singing and the yard was filled with the sound of children playing, I would be sitting on the piano stool putting in my 45 minutes....pecking out beautifully moving pieces like "The Swan Song" and "Evening Prelude".  Forty-five minutes seemed like at least 13 months to a young girl, who just wanted to ride her banana seat bike with the long, flowing streamers.

Anyway, the recital always fell on a Thursday or Friday evening and it usually took place at a church and involved wearing a dress and playing your piece from memory.  Playing from memory either went really good.....or really bad....depending on how nervous you were.  Afterwards, you were awarded a plastic bust of one of the great composers.  That's what every 8 year old wants.....a plastic head of a dead man.  That seemed to make all 85 hours that you'd spent on the piano stool that year, while your friends played outside....oh, so worth it.  I still have my collection of plastic busts somewhere in my attic.  I always though that Tchaikovsky looked suspiciously similar to Ulysses S. Grant, but I had plenty of time to think about things like that during the pieces that followed mine in the recital.       
I remember at one recital, I was sporting my YoYo shoes and looking too good.  I was to perform a Bach piece with which you're never supposed to use the pedal.  I always questioned Bach's judgment with the whole pedal thing as I felt the songs were a bit flat without it.  The night of the recital, I decided that I would overrule Bach and my piano teacher and insert some pedal....I mean, what could she do......stop the recital?  I took my chances and pressed my YoYo down on that damper pedal.  Oh, you've never heard Bach sound so good!  Afterwards, I'll never forget my piano teacher pulling me aside and assuring me that Bach had, indeed, rolled over in his grave on that evening.  I didn't care if Bach was facing up or down.....he was still dead and me and my plastic Mozart were outa there for three, glorious months.

 
May always brought around the standardized tests, which was another one of my favorites.  Back then, they seemed pretty easy and there wasn't any preparation for them....you just bubbled in the correct circle with the golden #2s that your mama had been instructed to send in the same note that asked that she get us to bed early.  For the rest of the school day, we were able to do fun things like an extra long games of kickball or Mother, May I?.  Whatever happened to those fun playground games we used to play?  Red Rover, Doggie Doggie Who's Got the Bone?, Red Light Green Light. 
"Red Rover, Red Rover, send Joni right over". 
You'd back up a few steps, look for the weakest link between the 2 skinniest girls and try to ram yourself right through there.  Maybe someone broke an arm and the game was deemed unsafe, and maybe Doggie Doggie is now thought to promote larceny, but we sure enjoyed it. There was never any homework or tests during that testing week, which meant you could play outside longer when you got home.  This was another week of May that you could cross through with little problem.
My birthday falls in May, which is another reason for its warm recollections.  Birthdays weren't HUGE like they are now, but just big enough to make you feel awesome for the day.  I remember having a couple of parties at the skating rink, but mostly my parties consisted of a cake in the backyard with the neighborhood kids.  We'd get one or two modest gifts from the parents and a few little things from friends....add a cake of some description and getting to choose what was for supper and you had yourself a special day.
 
May was also full of end of the year programs, school plays, certificates, and receptions with punch.  You seemed to eat a lot of sheet cake that month with generous sprinklings of those little, pastel mints.  The May of my fifth grade year found me listed in the school program as part of a trio to perform "A Bicycle Built for Two", which was choreographed with some alternating side to side kicks.....not unlike the Rockettes, only not near as impressive.  It was a moving number, nonetheless.  My parents had to have been proud.   
Then, there was the last day of school.  Ahhhh, you'd made it!  There was nothing like that feeling when you placed your textbooks on the towering stack and returned to your seat to gather all of your remaining supplies out of your desk.  Usually, the crayons were about an inch long at this point with no wrapper left.  You'd turned in all of your library books, thrown away the dried jar of white paste, gathered up what was left of your construction paper and were headed to the door that led to freedom.  Free to stay up late enough to watch all of Hawaii Five-0 and have friends over to spend the night.  From this point until fall, shoes became optional and Kool-Aid was always in the refrigerator.  The last day of school opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

I don't know how, but every year when May rolls in, I still get those same feelings.  A month full of special days and treats....doing things out of the normal routine....having feelings of accomplishment......anticipation of fun days ahead......finally crossing the finish line. 

It's been a long time since I turned in a textbook, performed in a recital, or played Red Rover, but I still feel like I did back then........in May. 

  

    
       
 

8 comments:

  1. Hi Joni! I came over from a link that BooMama posted and I have sooooo enjoyed reading all your old posts. You have described May as a child perfectly and what a little rebel you were with that Bach piece. I linked to your Mammogram post on my blog yesterday. I laughed so hard I was crying. I was trying to explain to my hubby why I was laughing and crying and he just looked at me like I was crazy. :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Mama Hen, for the kind words!! I also appreciate the linking! And I guess husbands just can't appreciate our women's diagnostic humor.....oh, well. ;)

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  2. This was like a step back in time! We had the same childhood (or I guess all kids of the 70s did??) banana seat bike and generic cola and all! I hated piano recitals too mainly for how mean and overly serious my teacher was (didn’t even get a bust of Bach--just a certificate). This was a fun read--great post!

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    1. Awwww, Karmen......no busts for you? That's a shame! Well, you're sure not getting mine, so don't get any ideas ;) Thanks for your encouragement!

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  3. Joni, you have such a gift for writing, no matter what the topic! I especially enjoyed this nostalgic post--I identified with every part of it, even though I am probably at least 10 years older than you (a child of the 60's!). You and I are kindred spirits! Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. Awwww....thanks Jee Jee!! I appreciate your kindness and glad to know I have a kindred spirit out there. :)

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  4. My birthday is in May, too and it's always such a special month. Great weather with all the fun of summer to look forward to. The tin foil insulation brought back memories and standardized testing did use to be much more low key!

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    1. Well, I hope your whole birthday month is Happy!!! It's a pretty awesome month to be born, I think ;)

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