I love the month of May.
There’s just something about it that makes me happy and full of hope and anticipation.
It might be the new lime green baby leaves on all the trees or the happy yellow daffodils or the crabapple trees that contradict their name with branches heavy with pink and white blossoms.
It might be the promise of lazy summer days at the lake, just around the corner, so close we can almost jump into them.
I know it is the fact that winter is OVER, officially. Sure, we will still get some cool and rainy days, but as long as it stays liquid I can handle it. And will dance in it. Happily.
Sunshine, life, happiness, promise – these are all words I associate with May.
So I suppose it’s no coincidence that these are also all words that I associate with my
May baby, who will turn 11 years old tomorrow.
From the time she learned how to smile, she’s never stopped.
People used to stop me in stores all the time and make comments about how happy she was.
I remember one sales clerk asking, when she was about 4 and singing – loudly – to herself, “Is she always this happy? (the answer was yes) and then she said,
“Well, aren’t you lucky?” (again, the answer was yes).
She’s also a girl who loves her birthday (wonder where she got that from?) and counts it down to the minute.
It’s hard for me to believe (and accept) that time marches on.
I want to stop it – all. the. time.
But I can’t, so I’ll maybe shed a little tear privately for all the moments that have passed, but then smile and do a happy birthday jig with her at 6:00 in the morning to celebrate another year of milestones, laughter and memories, and to look ahead to the coming year with excitement for all she will experience being 11.
Last year I wrote a note on facebook about the significance and story of her (very early) birthday, and especially about the significance of today’s date, May 7. Since it’s a story that seems to run on a constant loop in my mind during the first week of May and one that is so meaningful to me (and okay, because now I have this blog and I can), I thought I’d repost it.
I think it’s a nice way to Celebrate Mae (both of them).
A Beautiful Day, for many reasons…
My grandmother died suddenly when I was only a baby. Sadly I don’t have any memories of her, only a few photos of her holding me and the memories and stories my mother and my older sister have shared. Throughout my childhood, my mother often commented on how alike my grandmother and I were. My favorite flower was her favorite flower, my favorite piece of classical music was a piece my grandmother particularly loved, and so on. Even though I don’t remember her, I always felt a strong bond and a special connection with her.
My grandmother’s birthday was May 7th, and as I was growing up, I thought of this date as the most beautiful date of the whole year. Not only because of the fact that it was her birthday – this almost legend of a woman whose absence had left an unmistakable hole in my childhood – but because the date just conjured up images of springtime and beauty to me. I always knew something special would happen on that date, and for a long time was certain that would be my wedding date (it wasn’t).
Many years later, in May 2001, I was in the hospital on my 9th week of bed rest, trying through IV medication and horizontal positioning to keep my baby girl safe inside me until July. Even though I was bored out of my mind and had realized by about week 2 that lying around in bed all day was not as glamorous as it seemed, I certainly was hoping to make it to mid-June before giving birth. We’d been down this prematurity path 5 years earlier with our older daughter and knew the fears and risks associated with having a baby 9 or 10 weeks early.
Early in the morning of May 7th I was rudely awakened (in the hospital) by the sensation of a very wet bed, and it only took me a few seconds to realize that (1) I hadn’t wet the bed and (2) I was not in the lake I had been dreaming about.
My water had broken.
After a few hours of panic and disbelief that this was, in fact, happening again, I noticed the large daily calendar that hung opposite my bed. It read “May 6”. Because one of the highlights of my day was when the nurse would rip off another page (which got me one day closer to my unattainable July 10th due date) I reminded someone to change the page. When I saw the large black “May 7” an instant calm and peace came over me. We knew our baby was a girl and had already decided her middle name would be ‘Mae’ after my grandmother. In the midst of all the frantic activity in the room – strapping monitors to my belly, reading the long strip of contraction paper that was spitting out of the machine by my bed, different doctors coming in and looking at my chart with very serious expressions on their faces, nurses flipping me over onto my knees when they lost fetal heartbeat sounds – I knew this tiny baby would be okay. I just knew it. It all made perfect sense. It was as if my grandmother was looking down and already claiming this baby as hers to watch over. Despite my feeling of obvious helplessness, I had a real feeling of hopefulness knowing that this baby girl would share not only my grandmother’s name but also her birthday.
Ironically, at 11:45 p.m. the night of May 7th I was still lying on the delivery table, my labor stalled and hooked up to Pitocin to try to induce contractions. After telling the nurse the story of my grandmother and the whole meaning behind the date, I pleaded with her to put May 7th on the birth certificate even if she was born after midnight (she didn’t).
My tiny daughter was born at 2:13 a.m. on May 8th, 2001. She was 9 weeks premature but weighed a whopping 4 lbs. 11 oz. (thanks to all chocolate milkshakes I enjoyed on bed rest). She had typical (and sometimes frightening) preemie setbacks during the almost 5 weeks she was in the NICU, but quickly grew strong and healthy and beautiful. She was filled with such sunshine and happiness of life from the moment she could make an expression, and for 11 years countless people have told me, and continue to tell me, how she radiates pure joy. She may not have been born on May 7th, but I have no doubt that my grandmother was with me throughout that day 11 years ago and played a part in her entrance to the world.
To this day my daughter keeps this photo of my beloved grandmother and her guardian angel in her room.
She would have been 100 years old today.
I wish I’d have known her, but know that her spirit somehow lives in my radiant little girl.