May Day Memories

For over a decade my son and I have spent the first day of May

making May Baskets.

We would take bright construction paper and roll each piece into a cone,

attach a ribbon as a handle,

and then place flowers in them.

We would leave the May Baskets on the doorknobs of neighbors all over our neighborhood.


May is the month set aside by the Catholic Church

to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus.

In Catholic communities May Day is a joyous day filled with flowers and celebration.

I grew up dancing the May Pole;

the colorful streamers winding tight around a tree.

My son danced the May Pole in pre-school.

I told him about the ancient celebration of Beltane;

I told him that May Day really belongs to my Pagan self.

He did not care one way or another;

Leaving anonymous gifts all over town,

THAT is what counted.


I have over a decade of memories of my son and I

making our deliveries.

One year it was snowing so badly

we left chocolates in the shape of the Earth instead of flowers.


My memories will have to serve.


I just can not bring myself to continue.


I grew up waiting to see the Crowning of  The May Queen;

When I was little we would make May Baskets and leave them for our neighbors,

the flowers greeting  them as they came home from work.


I have very vague memories of making May Baskets with my mother.

The memories are in Vivid Color and I can smell the lilacs.

I can see the pretty cloth ribbon on the table.

I        just




my mother.


I know we did this.

I have a few photos of us making the baskets.

I  can not place THAT Mother

with the Mother

that I Knew;

The Alcoholic.


Grief and Complications are infringing on my May Day this year.

I will let it be.

May Day will return to our home  next year.


National Poetry Month is ended.

I am back to the Real Work;

The telling of my mother’s story;

of our story.

Maybe your story too;

The story of the devastation wrought by alcoholism.

My mother died of Wernicke – Korsakoff;

Alcoholics Dementia.

I am here to tell that story.


I will continue to post Poetry.

I have found it Healing to share these Words and these Poets

and will not stop.

I WILL turn back to the story at hand.

Poetry  teaches me the Power of telling the Truth,

Of sharing our Stories and of finding the

connections between us;

All of us.

Telling this story will continue;

Those will be Healing Words also.

Thank you for being here.

Happy May Day;

Happy Beltane;

Happy International Workers Day.

Peace,   Jen

This is a video of the May Pole dance

Pagan roots of the Catholic celebration of May Day

~ by Step On a Crack on May 2, 2012.

23 Responses to “May Day Memories”

  1. I love the colors, Jen. They are the promise of summer to me. I never knew that about May Day and the connection to the Catholic church. A wonderful tradition but one I can understand you’re struggling with this year. Sometimes you have to let some things go. You can pick them up again. You will. I know you. And YOU don’t stop! xo


    • Dear Debby,

      Aren’t the colors magnificent! In many ways, May Day was more fun than Easter when I was a kid. The crowning of the May Queen was spectacular too. Every high school girl wanted to be chosen to represent Mary. Duh!

      I think of you often when I recall the hard times of my mothers dementia. Some of the stories that come to mind are sort of funny. That helps. I am trying to see the light side along with the dark. I bet you know just what I am talking about.

      Alcoholism is the deal breaker. Nothing funny about an alcoholic mom.

      I think now I know to intersperse Poetry in too; Poets have a way of saying the hard stuff and making it global and powerful and that takes the sting out. This really is NOT just my story or my mothers. It is a universal one.
      I am not alone in this!

      Thank you as always for your support and presence. I was thinking today of your post about the men and competition with your brother. You made me smile.

      XO Jen


  2. I love the colorful maypole dancers, especially–And my heart goes out to you, Jen–for the grief of having a mom who wasn’t really present. There are stories that my mother was alcoholic, and/or that she was bi-polar (undiagnosed, untreated). I don’t know, not sure I even care–she did not know how to love me, how to nurture and mother me. I lived in fear of her. That’s what I know. God bless you this day, and always. love, Caddo


    • Oh Dear Caddo….

      My heart breaks for you. YOU with a Poets Heart and with Faith Faith Faith! It makes me very very sad to know that you can relate. Very very sad. We wonder if my mother was not just an alcoholic too. It doesn’t matter does it? It is over. Well, we live the fall out. Fear.

      Here is a question: You are a Poet Born. Did you write at an early age? I am realizing that in many ways writing saved me. you?

      God Bless you my Friend. LOVE, Jen


  3. what an interesting post. my family didn’t celebrate May Day at all. ever. And I have no memory of doing anything like this with my mother. ever. thanks for sharing such good memories with us. made me smile, even though I know this is a tough time for you


    • Thank you for being here…

      Your comment really hit me: I was given May Day by my mother. She may not have given much and she took an awful lot: BUT you have me realizing she gave me more than I realize.

      Chanel # 5, May Day, I can wear high heels like a pro, and I do not drink.

      I do not drink and I am breaking the very cycles you write about. Well, I am doing the best I can. AND I get to share May Day with my son.

      Louise, thank you. I am smiling now. XXOO Jen


      • thanks for letting me know Jen. funny how, when we share our truth, other people can use it. awesome.

        and yes, you got lots from your mom. isn’t it great to recognize it? truly wonderful. thanks so much for letting me know.


  4. […] May Day Memories ( […]


  5. Wow!! Powerful!! This is my first time reading your post and I relate so much to your story about your mother, my mother is a dry drunk and is maybe dealing with dementia. I am in recovery and was not aware of alcoholic dementia. Oddly enough what REALLY stuck out for me was your comment “Poetry teaches me the power of telling the truth”!! WOW!! I use to write poetry and that statement touches my heart. I’m hooked Jen!


    • THANK YOU so VERY much! THIS is why I am writing the darn blog to begin with.

      Congrats on recovery and I am so sorry about your moms dementia. I have been posting poetry the last month and will head back to writing about my moms journey. Hard but also good. I have a ton of stuff I have in my archives about alcoholics dementia and recovery and …

      on and on. There are some AMAZING recovery blogs to visit. One of these days I need to figure out how to make a blog roll. really I do.

      Why ‘used to write”? Why did you stop writing poetry?

      I am tickled you are here!

      Peace, Jen


      • I’m not sure what happened to my poetry. I lost it towards the end of my drinking career because … well… I spent all my time drinking (literally) but then when I sobered up I just never really discovered it again. I think also because my poetry was such a huge outlet for all the pain I was going through , it was mostly negative and full of pain. Once I sobered up I guess since I had to learn how to verbalize my pain I did’nt need the poetry. I don’t know it that makes any sense, I’ve never really thought about it too much because to be honest I’m afraid if I do try to write again (sober) I won’t be able to, Oh, great !! the powerful fear rears it’s ugly head once again. You’ve really got me thinking about this, you’ve inspired me to maybe look at “why?”
        Thanks Jen!!!!!


      • Oh Man! I can SO relate and this is why I asked. I wrote from a really young age. As I hit 5th grade my writing took a dark turn and actually started to really Work. I kept writing and it just got darker and darker. It was a way for me to purge my ‘demons’. I was TERRIFIED to get clean and sober because I was certain that the ‘dark artist’ stuff was true. I thought I would lose my ‘thing’.

        I didn’t. I will admit sometimes the really happy poetry about my son and about love and hope seems trite I also know that is just the ‘old dark me’ judging me harshly. I will go to a meeting or talk to other program sorts or wander the recovery blogs here and I can realize that I am working from defect. Does that make ANY sense?

        Writing about my mom and her alcoholism and MY recovery is back in the DARK again BUT the good people here help me find and see the hope in my situation. I now know I CAN write both dark and light and it does NOT have a thing to do with using. Truth is it never did. My writing is better now than it was then.

        I bet you would like a blog called u r the inspiration: Sean is clean and sober and JUST wrote and produced his first play and is working on his second. Al at Al. K Hall is another “recovery artist” (his clever term) who is sober and still really creative. My friend Mel is at
        i am not she and she paints AND writes. There are TONS of writers and artists HERE who thought the same thing we did/do. Any who…. food for thought.

        Your comments sing ‘writer’ to me.

        Peace, Jen THANK YOU for being here!


  6. Well my friend, when they say ‘timing is everything’ they don’t just mean in comedy. Timing is everything in tragedy and grief, too.
    Although our stories are so different, some things seem to bridge all gaps, like Holidays.
    My Mom loved EVERY holiday and we celebrated EVERY holiday with tons of traditions. We made our May Day baskets and I would ring the doorbell and run.
    I had just turned 49 when she died. I hated EVERY holiday for the next 3 years. I ignored my 50th birthday, not because I minded being 50, but because she wasn’t there, making apple dumplings and just overjoyed that she had me.
    As much as I miss her, it hurts me more to know you never had that kind of love. If there were a way I could keep just a portion of my happy childhood and give you the other rest, taking your hurt and neglect, I would do it in a moment. I’m sorry, Jen
    Since Heidi and I work every day, including every holiday, we try to just celebrate each day for the gifts it brings.
    By the way – if you’ve read Fork, you know that H & I gave candy and cookies to everyone (100-200 men) on May Day and not one single person in Texas had ever heard of ti!
    They’ve heard of Cinco de Mayo. No Margaritas here – but lots prayers and lots of love headed your way.


    • You ARE an angel! I am realizing MORE stuff my mom gave me; not just what she took. She was HUGE into holidays. I love that!

      It makes me SO happy to know that you were loved so deeply by your mom! That does my Heart good. I wish I had words for the joy it brings me. I wish she had been here at 50 to make those Dumplings for you. I really really do.

      I LOVE that you two gave out treats! I had the idea that you guys could make up all kinds of ‘yankee’ holidays and go to town on it! I was talking to my husband about you two and May Day (I talk about you guys ALL the time…) We came up with the idea of using the Hindu calendar: EVERY day is a holiday of some kind. They have a REally COOL holiday called Diwali ‘the festival of lights’ we feel certain that that would translate as a weird Yankee holiday!

      Cinco De Mayo is HUGE in my neighborhood! As a matter of fact we have the largest celebration in a 5 state area and our neighborhood is THE place to be! We would always get the day off school when it fell weekday because no way was ANYONE going to be at school. We will be rolling in tacos this weekend.

      So to new Yankee holidays! and to you and your mom….

      Love to you, Jen


  7. Hi Jen. I’m late, and this is one of the coolest posts ever! I love the memories you bring up about May Day. I remember making May Baskets with candy and cards for our neighbors. We would sometimes get flowers as well. It was a fun time welcoming spring! My mom and dad eloped on May 1 60 years ago on May 1, 1952. This is SO WEIRD that you posted this about the May Queen and May 1. Mom was a May Queen at Western Washington University (I think that’s where she was), or Oregon State.

    You, my friend, faced May 1 as a Mom with your Son, celebrating colors and TRADITIONS. You have built traditions and beautiful memories for your son and you, and he will remember these things forever and he WILL see YOU … and he will repeat these traditions in the future. D*** that’s a blessing! Here’s the deal, i didn’t acknowledge the marriage of my mom and dad with dad. I wasn’t so afraid of my grief … but i couldn’t bear the thought of tears from my dad (if there were any). I side-stepped my anger (and grief) … so i applaud you for facing this day and all other days in full force. Love Mel. I will be visiting IC though, on Mother’s Day.


    • Mel! OH MY! I thought of your Mom on May Day; the May queen. I had no idea it was an anniversary too.

      Sweetie, I wish I could take your grief. I really do. This is one long-ish weird bumpy weird journey. You are JUST into it. You are facing each day and all your days with force too.

      What a huge thing to say you could not acknowledge your parents marriage! that is HUGE!

      I say “sidestep when need be!” I know I do. last month focusing only on Poetry was a HUGE sidestep..

      We will side step, two step, Hustle step and Hip Hop our grief IN OUR OWN TIME!

      Warrior Woman Unite!

      Love Jen


  8. Jen– I love to be hearing your story again. I’m sorry for the pain, the neglect, the questions. This is a wonderful mixture of past/present, pain/pleasure and grieving. Good work. I enjoyed reading about your heart. Thank you so much. I know the pain is more present when you write about it, but you do help others in your share work. Thanks again, brave soul.


    • Dear Heidi,

      Thank you for saying there is a mix. I need to focus on the Mix. I want to thank you for reminding me through your celebration of May Day that my mom did give me things to keep. She did. I am going to try to tell the rest of her/my story BUT this time find some balance. I know her unexpected death ate into me before. I know it is still there. I also know women like you who lead the way to hope and with faith.

      XO Jen


  9. wow-thanks for the link to may day history and traditions-i loved reading it. and i loved reading about you and your son’s tradition, tainted though it may be.


    • Hello there YOU! I am so happy to see you here. I am working to ‘get out and about’ more now.

      I LOVE the weird ways the early Catholic Church co-opted the pagans. Wait. that did NOT come out right: I LOVE the history of the whole thing AND it also helps explain why I feel comfortable as a pagan catholic. I DESPISE what the early church did to the pagans. there. that is better.

      Or I go with my Buddhist self and realize We are all One. either way we all win.

      XO Jen


  10. Thank you for continuing the struggle!


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