The merry month of May
“Mugi, it’s Barbara Allen, not Barbrie Allen,” I would say. She would shake her head and keep singing of that hardhearted Barbrie Allen.
Perhaps, it was the sweet smell of honeysuckle or the tickling of buttercup “dust” on my nose or maybe the outhouse roses climbing the hogwire fence that brought Mug’s words to mind – “Twas in the merry month of May when all gay flowers were blooming.”
How many times I’d heard her sing that line and it was my favorite. Really the best line in the whole sad story. As a child, if I thought about it, I would almost cry – the two of them, Barbrie Allen and Sweet William, lying dead in the churchyard. But I loved the line “Twas in the merry month of May” because May was my favorite month, except for December when Sandy Claus came.
In May we got out of school and that was reason for merriment. It meant that I could go barefooted, ride my bicycle, make mud pies and frog houses, catch tadpoles, lightning bugs and June bugs, go fishing, eat wild plums and blackberries and go swimming at Beck’s Mill.
The merry month of May meant the beginning of everything good in my young life. I was sorry about what happened to Barbrie Allen and Sweet William, but I didn’t dwell on it. It was just a song and it was the merry month of May and all was well.
I’m not sure exactly what grade I was in, maybe the fourth, when the merry went right out of May.
To be honest, I didn’t like school very much so I was always happy when the flowers appeared on the earth and time of the singing of birds had come. That’s from the Bible. I learned it in Sunday school and it was my favorite Bible verse. I figured little boys and girls back in the Bible days got tired of school, too.
But this year, our teacher Miss Beverly said that we were going to do a May Pole dance for the whole school to see. She said that she would put long streamers of crepe paper, — pink, blue, yellow and green — on the top of a pole and we would each hold on to a stream and dance around the pole, ducking under the streamers as we wound them around the pole.
I liked that idea until she said the girls had to wear long skirts with gay colors and blouses with lace around the neck. Our mamas could make our skirts and buy our blouses. I don’t remember what the boys had to wear. That didn’t skin my nose as my granny would say. But I didn’t want to wear a long skirt with gay colors and a blouse with lace around the neck. I said I couldn’t be in the May Pole dance because my mama couldn’t sew and my daddy didn’t have any money.
That got me by Miss Beverly and I didn’t say anything to Mama about the May Pole dance. But, when they started practicing, I got interested. The May Pole dance kind of reminded me of the merry-go-round at the county fair and I really like to ride on it. Up and down and around and around. I decided that I wanted to be in the May Pole dance.
Miss Beverly said I could if I could get my long shirt and gay blouse by Friday. That was one day away. She didn’t mention anything about Mama and Daddy.
I told Mama that I wanted to be in the May Pole dance. She didn’t have time to make me a skirt so she bought the only one they had at the clothing store. It was too big in the waist so Mama took a tuck in it.
I didn’t look too prissy in the May Day costume. I got to practice and I felt just like a pony on the merry-go-round.
The day of the May Pole Dance, everybody came outside to watch us go up and down and around and around.
It was a lot of fun … until the tuck came out of my skirt and it started to slip down and down. I had to let go of my streamer and hold on to my skirt so it wouldn’t hit the ground.
I kept going around and around but my streamer was dragging the ground, the ground.
I didn’t feel like a horse on the merry-go-round. I felt like poor Sweet William in the old graveyard. I wanted to do like him and just fall over and die. It was not a merry, merry month of May anymore.