COLUMNS

READY: It’s not just the first day of May

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Mary Ready

Happy Day Before May Day 2016. It’s the 121st day of the year (122nd in leap years) on the Gregorian calendar.

According to some TV and internet ads, changes are coming to Social Security on May 1 that will “threaten the financial security of millions of Americans.”

Those of us over 65 have already been “threatened” so often by rumors of Medicare being cut or being dragged under by Obamacare or being pushed over a cliff in our wheelchairs, etc. we longer jump when so-called government experts yell “Boo!”

Besides, if one can believe fact checker Snopes.com, the May 1 specter of economic ruin shakes out thus: “The pending changes are relatively minor: they do not take away any existing benefits or alter core Social Security benefits or payment levels, they are not ‘hidden’ or ‘radical,’ and they do not ‘threaten the financial security’ of millions of Americans.”

I’d gladly share the list of Social Security changes with you, but there are a lot of them, and they’re kind of squirrely.

When I hear of “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday,” I don’t think of a distress signal; I think of Communists or of children dancing around a decorated pole holding colorful streamers. But I’ll explain that a few paragraphs later.

As a cry for help, mayday is an emergency code word derived from the French, “venez m’aider,” meaning “come and help me.” First suggested by a British radio officer Frederick Mockford in 1923, the term is always spoken three times in succession.

Well, so much for that little bit of esoterica.

Now for the Communists and youthful dancers. May 1 is marked in many countries as a public holiday. Synonymous with International Workers’ Day or Labor Day, it can be a day for political demonstrations, parades of union workers, anarchists, socialist groups, angry protests against oppressive governments, etc.

It can also be a day of innocent fun celebrating the end of winter or a day for neopagans holding weird rituals while frolicking around the trees in a dark forest. Long observed in many European countries, it’s mostly a time for small villages and towns to celebrate springtime fertility after the hard labor of planting has been done. The prevalent tradition is the Maypole, around which young dancers dressed in folk costume circle with ribbons. There may also be a crowning of a Queen of the May.

In modern America, it doesn’t seem to be a day of any special significance. In Minneapolis, there’s a huge May Day Parade and Pageant, drawing thousands of people every year. But I don’t think it’s a big deal in most American cities. Maybe some attorneys will remember that May 1 is also Law Day and take the office staff out to a nice lunch.

In early America, as with Halloween, Easter and Christmas traditions, the first European settlers brought many of their holiday customs to the New World. In some parts of the country, May Baskets were made and filled with flowers and treats. The giver would leave the basket on someone’s doorstep, knock on the door and run away. The person answering the door would try to catch the benefactor. If caught, a kiss was exchanged.

How cool is that!?

Except in 2016, someone would call the police and file a stalking complaint, or at the very least, the basket person may get the recipient’s Rottweiler turned loose on him.

Still, I’d love to be either the basket giver or the basket receiver. Because I sincerely believe in the two-way joy that flows from random, anonymous acts of kindness.

So, there you have it. A day that can mean nothing; a day that can mean angry, deadly protests; and a day that suggests happy young people, flowers and May-poles. It’s within our human prerogative to observe any given day as a good one or a bad one. When Shakespeare’s Hamlet says his country is one of the worst of all prisons because “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” Rosencrantz says their homeland is a lovely place to live. But both have to agree, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

May 1, 2016, can be any sort of day we THINK it to be.

Shakespeare also writes of the “darling buds of May,” so I THINK I’d rather leave baskets of flowers on doorsteps and dance around a Maypole. Wouldn’t you?

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.