Smiling this month

By Joe Rector

Without exception, May is my favorite month of the year. Yes, it’s my birthday month, but so many other things are imprinted on my memory, and they bring smiles to me whenever they surface.

The other night, I scooped up from the back yard our dog Sadie’s latest offerings. After tossing them into the woods, I turned to go back inside. A sudden breeze came, and instantly, the faint fragrances of early blooming honeysuckle and the blooms of some other undergrowth blew across my face. For just a second, I was a boy again who was filled with excitement and energy.

In years gone by, May was that month when high school students attended prom. Girls bought formal dresses, and boys rented tuxes. Except for weddings, many males would never wear such an outfit again. Cars sparkled after washing and waxing, and sometimes parents would loan their cars to boys for that special occasion, but only after receiving promises that sons would drive extra-carefully. Savings were wiped out with other expenses that included corsages, gas, and special meals. After-prom activities varied from couple’s parties to boy-get-togethers. The latter usually included consuming illegal alcohol and ended with boys on all fours while they begged for God to stop the world from spinning.

Seniors looked forward to graduation in May. They usually finished the year a few days before younger students. Those free times were filled with class lunches and graduation practice. Family members gathered from other cities, and a large contingent celebrated the end of high school. Seniors looked forward to gifts and cash that family and friends gave. Walking across the stage to receive a diploma and handshake from the principal was the most exciting part.

Back in the day, the end of May and the school year immediately led to the first day of work at a summer job. During my summers, I worked the curb at the Copper Kettle and the counter at Burger King. A couple of summers I worked for the city of Knoxville maintenance. A group of high school boys cut weeds, picked up litter, and hauled everything to the dump on Asheville Highway. The pay for any job never went above $1.35, but a portion of every paycheck was placed into a savings account to pay for things during the school year.

Mother’s Day was a special event in May. In elementary school, we made crafts and cards in art classes to give our mothers. Roses were in bloom so that we wore red buds in our collars on Sunday. As my brothers and I grew older, we met at Mother’s house for dinner, which she cooked, and gave her presents. Always the pragmatist, she asked for usable things. One year, we presented her a contractor-sized wheel barrow that she wanted to haul flowers, dirt, and leaves from her gardens. A magnolia tree from another Mother’s Day grew so large that the new owners of her house cut most of it. Left are offshoots that have themselves grown twenty feet in height.

Amy and I will head to Charleston, South Carolina for a few days sometime this month. With any luck, we’ll be at home when the blooms are fullest. The air will be so thick with the scents that each breath is a thing of pure joy. May seems to be the happiest month of the year. Good weather and exciting events make it that way.

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