May is the Month of Mary, that's what they tell me. Children would dress up in their finest - or in the best they had (sometimes their best wasn't all that much better) - and carry flowers in a processional, through the school yard, down main street. The flowers were, of course, an offering for the queen, for the Mother of them all.
This is what my older Irish friends remember of May; their stories are nearly all the same... stories of old Ireland. It's hard to find one such parade today.
I remember May, too, when school was winding down. Windows were flung open, recess lasted longer and thunderstorms popped up like guests at a surprise party. These storms would send us on our own processional: to the hallway, lined up like toothpicks, perched over crossed-legs with hands shielding our heads. Tornados were not a thing to be feared, or maybe they were. But that hint of danger was the closest grade school in Kansas ever came to exciting.
In May we felt warm air on our young fresh legs, peeking out from shorts for the first time in months. Summer is coming, our one constant thought. Those were beautiful days.
Earlier in the school year, our teacher had taken sick. It was our first experience with cancer, a big scary word we didn't fully understand. But what 12 year old thinks death will happen to someone they know, someone they see every day, someone they may spend more time with than one's own parent?
Mr Lyles came back to school twice, short visits to see how we were getting on, to thank us for the get well cards we made in art class; flowers pressed and decoupaged onto cardstock. He was already a tall man, slender and gentle; wiry hair atop wiry glasses. But he appeared to us like a ghost, edging nearer to the thin places we did not yet know about.
On the day of his funeral, the dogwoods were in bloom. Tiny white petals gathered in the air, welcoming us as witnesses to the passage of life, a simple offering for a kind man. My legs that were so recently warmed by the sun felt chilly underneath the skirt of my month-old Easter dress, the best I had. Soft, new hairs had just appeared, pricked by the May wind, dispatching shivers to my pre-teen tips.
Weren't we just outside, playing together in the school yard, in the hall laughing at the wind?
We were readying our changing bodies for life, while Mr Lyles' body faded away.