Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy May Day!

May Day isn't much of a thing in the US. It's a big thing in Europe, where it's really Labor Day with a Communist slant, as I see it. For Jonathan and me, it was something quite different—a little private anniversary.

At Oberlin, we used to have a special celebration for May Day. A group of students somehow got permission to climb into the Finney Chapel bell tower at the crack of dawn on May Day so that we could sing madrigals there. I think somebody rang bells, too.

I was usually game for odd things like this, so I sang up there in 1976, I think it was. Afterwards, there was some kind of strange breakfast tradition. Fueled by lots of carbs, endorphins, and the moral superiority of having gotten up before daybreak, I found myself full of good cheer but with nothing to do. Being a sophomore, which means "wise fool," I was still up for odd stuff. So of course I decided to make a long-distance call to somebody I'd never called before.

These days, of course, long-distance calls aren't even referred to as "long distance." You just make a call, and if it's in the US, it isn't a thing. Back then, there were no cell phones. Not only that, long-distance calls cost serious money for a student. (Go ahead, Patrick. Find a comparison chart for how much they cost. We'll be here when you come back.) I don't even remember how we made them, except I know that we didn't usually use pay phones; we had some kind of charging system and settled up later, maybe at the end of the month.

You can see that one didn't just call people up for a lark, not if it were long distance, and especially not if one didn't know the person fairly well. It was a shock to Jonathan, a junior at Portsmouth Abbey School, when somebody told him he had a call. From a girl. He picked up the phone in the hall at his dorm and heard my voice—and his knees buckled. I think all their energy went to what must have been a huge grin.

I don't remember what we talked about. We weren't really an item yet. It was after that fateful dinner at his parents' house (which I hope I'll write about later), but we weren't in love. Still, it was a delightful (though rather stilted) call, and we both remembered it fondly.

Every year on May 1, one of us would wake the other with a kiss and "Happy May Day!" Even though both of us loved our sleep, that was guaranteed to wake the other with a smile. It's a bittersweet memory.

Happy May Day, sweetheart. I love you forever.

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