There's so much May, and there's never enough.
It's one of those jumbo months, 31 days — who could ask for more? All of us. It usually comes in cool; flakes on the first few days are not uncommon, because we live in a cruel place. By the end of the month all is green and bright, soaked with new life, and every raw, gray day we endured in the preceding six months is forgotten.
But we deserve a little more May.
Nope! It's like an old superhero at the end of the story, fists on hips, cape snapping in the breeze: My work here is done. Wait! Don't go! Too late. We're handed over to June, and even though the whole summer is ahead of us, we know it'll run like water through our hands. So what do we do today to mark this moment?
We eat circular divots of ground cow, prepared on a fire. We heat brats until they burst and hiss. We grill skewers of peppers and chunks of chicken. We clink glasses and bottles and dig into the potato salad and let the sun sink slow and low, and then slap at a skeeter and think: Here we go again.
But where's the duct tape? You need that. As you prepare the Memorial Day barbecue, make sure you know where the duct tape is. Also, scissors. You might want to measure out some long strips and cut them in advance, have them hanging somewhere for fast access. Because someone's going to say, "It'll be State Fair time before you know it!"
And that's when you apply the duct tape directly to the lower part of their face, the part that moves and says true things that no one wants to hear.
At the office the other day, we got samples of some Vikings Seasoning. "Use wherever you'd use salt!" it said on the container. OK, I'll sprinkle it on the steps in January. No. It's a blend of savory spices meant to enliven your grub, and I thought I should try this on the Memorial Day burgers. But that would be wrong, like using Twins Salt in December.
Later that day I got a tweet which reminded me that the first Vikings exhibition game is Aug. 10, and I thought about that. Heading over to the Giant Swede's house on a hot day in the middle of August, everything lush, the cicadas droning in the bushes, and how that day would be linked to a soft ochre-hued October Sunday, and then to a raw November afternoon, and then a wind-whipped whiteout December day.
Time's Winged Chariot, as Andrew Marvell called it — except it's more Time's Self-Driving Car now. You take your hands off the wheel, and it stays in its lane. You take your foot off the gas, and it drives on anyway. It actually seems to be speeding up.
That's where it helps to remember what this day is. We overthink the time we have ahead. The people who slumber in the cemeteries lack that luxury.
A few years ago when we hosted a Spanish exchange student, we went to Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Memorial Day. She was struck by the mute beauty of the endless white markers, the unified community, the sense of purpose and service. How every stone was the same, and every name was different.
You find yourself tarrying at the resting place of a stranger, reading the dates, saying the name out loud. How else can you pay them back? There are so many; the white stones are arrayed in rolling rows as far as you can see. There's no way to thank them all. You choose one, imagine the life that was. Speak the name of a stranger, and move on.
I see the graveyard every time I go to Terminal 2 at the airport, but it never registers as such, because I'm in a hurry. I have places to go. Very important things to do. It doesn't register when I leave the airport, either, because I have to get home, I'm tired, long day of sitting in a soft chair in the sky.
It rarely occurs to me that the airport is adjacent to a vast cemetery for our veterans, that this place of earthbound finality is sandwiched between the terminals and runways where people leap into the sky every few minutes. The airport cannot expand here, because the stubborn souls of these planted platoons will not be moved. They won this ground and every white stone is a flag planted on the ground they earned.
It is always May in this place, even in the worst of winter. Because May is when we see the world for what it is, and wish for a little more.
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