The peonies are blooming in my neighborhood, and that can mean only one thing. It’s May, the queen of springtime.
In May, the new greens of spring have started to mellow just slightly, the air is mild, the sun plentiful. In school, the children squirm at their desks and watch the clock, dreaming of the outdoor fun they will have when the final bell rings. The local pool opens, the bikes get filled with air, and the barbecues get fired up.
Those peonies I spied on my morning walk reminded me so much of my childhood home in Oak Park, Illinois, and the garden my father so lovingly tended. Even though I was afraid of all the big black ants that seemed to love crawling through their blossoms, I adored their intoxicating scent, which mingled with the aroma of lilacs and honeysuckle in the warm spring air.
May was also the month when we Catholic school children would crown the Blessed Virgin Mary statue with a wreath of flowers and sing my favorite hymns, “Immaculate Mary,” “Salve Regina,” and “Sing of Mary.” I have a lovely photograph of my older sisters laden with flowers for their own, homegrown May crowning in our backyard.
May is so nearly perfect because the insects and the humidity of summer have not yet descended on the Chicago area. Kids are eagerly anticipating the long summer months ahead instead of lolling around and moaning about their boredom. It’s an ideal time for outdoor dining, gardening, pedicures, and window shopping – or more active pursuits like walking, jogging, and bike riding.
There’s a sense of impending freedom about May, of romance and people coming alive. That is why Queen Guinevere sings about “The Lusty Month of May” in the Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot.
Before we know it, our kids will be home on summer vacation, and yards will be filled with noisy play, summer cocktail parties and barbecues, fireflies (or as we call them here in the Midwest, “lightning bugs”), and noisy cicadas. Many of us will take off to lake houses and other vacation spots.
For now, we can enjoy the lengthening days and sunny good cheer of May.