Today I rose before dawn and danced the sun up with my friends.
I spent the night at the house of friends in that same town where we met. I brought the photos of that unexpected housewarming party fifteen years ago, and they got added to the pile of memories of past tours big and small the team waxed on about, because, yes one of those Morris teams at the housewarming is my team now.
There was a bonfire out back, and in the wee hours I went out to watch it because I couldn’t sleep. Some significant frivolity ensued, but that’s a story for another day. But the bonfire brought back the memory of the fact that Barbara and I were the last ones tending the fire on that night thirty-one years ago. We had the first of our long talks waiting for that fire to burn out. I had forgotten about that.
I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep, and woke before the dawn. Somehow I managed to get my kit together, including those bell pads with her eight Christmas craft bells mixed in with the real Morris ones. We danced the sun up at out behind the house, and I managed to be not unbelievably terrible. I think I was almost not awful.
When that sun came up, it brought the same clear blue sky as that day thirty-one years ago. Is there anything quite like a perfect May dawn? When I looked at that sky, I thought of that first May Day together, walking down by the pond, staring up at that sky and just talking effortlessly for two hours with a girl I’d just met, realizing just how remarkable she was, and wondering about how we could instantly be so comfortable together. I smiled and shed a few tears at the same time.
And then I was back in the here and now, getting the rest of my kit and being welcomed by the team as the newest member at the start of the new season. A team of guys who know why I joined them to dance the Morris now, and as a result care a lot about a woman they never even met.
The day was pretty packed. We walked up the hill from our private sunrise to join four other teams on the town common. We drank champagne and strawberries, we danced and we watched the other teams perform. The kids and the teenagers always blow me away with how good they are. Once again I was struck by that incredibly blue sky. On the way back down the hill I looked up at that sky and let some more tears go. Back and forth, joy and grief, the past and present fully linked.
After breakfast we performed for a gym full of elementary school kids, along with our kids and teenager’s teams. Our Squire taught the school kids a dance at the end and had the whole gym full of kids joining in. That was just pure fun.
Our team continued on alone to the UMass campus. I didn’t mention it to the guys, but we got off the bus in the same parking lot people used when they were coming to our wedding, and to her memorial service. We danced in a pretty green space I didn’t even know existed on a campus I attended and lived right down the road from for nearly thirty years.
The last stop on our tour was the Senior Center in town. We provided entertainment for the lunch crowd. I recognized one of the women helping serve the lunch. After we were done performing I went over to see her. She had only met me once or twice before, so she didn’t recognize me in my kit. It was the leader of the Friday knitting group that Barbara used to help out. When I introduced myself she gave me a really huge hug for such a little woman and we both started crying. We talked and hugged some more and just couldn’t get past the craziness of it all. Six months later it still makes no sense. It just is.
All day long the new kept coming full circle around to the old.
After I had my own lunch and got home and showered, I realized there was one more circle to complete. In the morning, on that town common, looking at that sky, I thought about how close I was to the pond we had the long talk at. In the afternoon, I got back in the car and drove out there. The pond is still there, a little different than I remember, but not much.
It was the May Day I hoped for. No, this was not the best May Day ever, that will forever be 1982. But this bittersweet day was exactly what I hoped for and needed right now. I wondered after posting my last entry if I would regret going out on a limb and reaching for so much so soon. But I got all that and even more than I expected. It’s amazing what life will sometimes hand you when you are open to it.
This day was the model for the year ahead. I smiled genuine smiles (there is actual photographic proof of this). The tears came when they needed to and I didn’t care. I will live with this grief as part of my life, but not controlling it. I have been undead long enough.
May is here, it’s time to start rebuilding.