The twenty-fourth of May
Is the Queen’s birthday
If they don’t give us a holiday
We’ll all run away!
I’ve never sung this old jingle, but I can imagine my mom belting it out.
We’ve been celebrating the birthday of Queen Victoria – considered the “Mother of Confederation” – for a long time, since 1845, more than twenty years before Canada became a nation. So it’s in our collective psyche, as that most wonderful of all markers. A time to shed winter’s blahs. A time to kick off summer by camping, planting, sitting on a patio, wearing white: persistent rain and/or cold be damned! Oh. There’s no rules about the wearing of white anymore?
We used to have parades and fireworks and a few cities still do, like the late queen’s namesake of Victoria, BC. But mostly we’ve strayed from honouring this long-dead monarch whom most of us know little about. Now? It seems to have devolved into a national holiday honouring the way us Canadians prefer to purchase beer: in a case of 24.
Okay. I do like to have a beer or two (or maybe three) to celebrate May 24, but as years go by I find it a time of happy reflection. Driving up to the cottage recently, to prepare for guests, I got to thinking about how this numero uno holiday weekend has evolved over my lifetime.
As a kid, I was super-plugged-in to the emotions of those around me. My fav? The “laid-back-giddy-no-work-in-sight” emotion. Arriving home after school on the Friday of the May long weekend when I was 10, a social studies assignment about some long-dead explorers with names like Cartier, Cabot and de Champlain heavy in my arms (no backpacks back in the day), I found my mother and the next-door neighbour lady sitting on the back porch. Just sitting there! Talking. Laughing. Nothing to do! The scent of lilac blossoms wafted over them.
I chucked the books. Spent the rest of the weekend turning cartwheels on the fresh green lawn. By Monday afternoon? I was in self-imposed exile in my bedroom slapping that boring project together so I’d be able to enjoy fireworks that night.
As a teenager? May 24 = Freedom from Family! Despite the weather, I’d be camping with friends.
As a working mom? May 24 = Mega Yard Work! That whole “laid-back-giddy-no-work-in-sight” thang? On hold, except for perhaps the “giddy” of how the yard would eventually look. I’d be in a whirl: weeding gardens, planting trees, shrubs, flowers, seeds. Picking up winter debris, cutting grass. Pulling lawn furniture out, turning outside taps on, washing things.
As a cottage-owning mom of three teenagers who’d inherited the “laid-back-giddy-no-work-in-sight” thang? May 24 = Cottage Patrol! It seemed no matter how much I prepared for this, they’d surprise me. Mostly, it was due to their vampire-like sleep habits and the sheer number of friends that magically appeared. I’d be like, “Who are you and why is your giant backpack blocking my front door?”
And now? May 24? Hmmm. Perhaps I’ve come full circle, minus the dead explorers? I think I’m more prepared for my three sweet grandkids to visit the cottage (with just their parents, not 24 of their closest friends). They’ll want to do the things we do there all in one day: go to the beach, for a boat ride, in the wading pool, in the hot tub, for ice cream, to one of the many playgrounds, and then? Have a fire and roast marshmallows.
May 24 – and the following weekend, Memorial Day, for our friends to the south – is a time to bust out. Our houses expand as we spend more time outside, marveling once more at nature’s bounty. Our hearts expand. The days expand! This weekend, whether you’re in a whirl of yard work, or plowing fields, or catching up with family and friends, take a moment to acknowledge that giddy feeling of being alive and on the verge: summer beckons. Enjoy!
Website photo: Another glorious Grand Bend sunset.