The Ottumwa Courier

May 9, 2012

May, a bittersweet but lovely month

Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Tra-la, it’s May, the merry month of May ... Or so goes one of my favorite songs from the musical, “Camelot.” Ah, May was always so special. When I was little, it meant school was out for the long, long summer. And the summers did seem very long back then, didn’t they? Oh, we might have had humidity and heat, but to a child who lived outdoors all summer long, it was just one grand day after another. Our house, when I was little, was large and airy. And outside? Oh, my! I had yards and yards to play in — almost three huge yards. One side was a big garden and grapevines. In the middle was the huge lawn in front of the house with trees and perennials and grass to run in barefoot all summer long. On the other side was a grassy play area big enough for ball games with the boys across the street, plus another vegetable garden and then, heavenly weeds. When you’re a kid, there is nothing more fun than to play in the weeds. To make trails and hideouts. To try and sneak into my big brother and sister’s playhouse where I was not allowed. And then one day, I had a marvelous tree house out back, accessible by only a rope ladder. Thank you, brother Wally, for that. Oh, my own private place, and high. I loved it up there. The igloo you made me in the winter was great fun, and I loved the roller skates you bought for me one spring. But the tree house was mine. I could look north to my house and yards, east to the rest of my little town, south to the lumber yard next door and west to the farm fields and the beckoning future. It was always west I looked. I don’t know. Maybe I thought the farm ground was prettier, or I knew somewhere miles away were the big city lights of Des Moines, where I would one day go to college.

At age 10, we had to leave that large, lovely home and move to a much smaller one that Dad owned closer to “uptown.” I was older, and I really didn’t mind. I liked being closer to school and to “uptown,” plus it had grape arbor pipes in back where I could swing and swing.

Moving to Ottumwa, May meant something different. I married Bernie in May, and his birthday was in May. It has been a special month all these years.

Six years ago, when I lost my husband, it was in May. I don’t know why he had to leave me in the month of his birthday and our wedding anniversary. It pulled at my heart strings for many years.

Then, last year, my daughter and her husband decided on May for their wedding, and it was a wonderful event. It made the month so much lovelier, like it is supposed to be. Will it bother you, she asked me. No, I said. It makes me happy. I’ve had great loss and great love in May, this month of spring. I focus now on the love and the beauty all around me. Soon, the grass, the leaves and the flowers will tire from summer’s heat, but the corn and the soybeans will grow and ripen and make Iowa scenery the best there is.

But now, it is lush and green. It is May. And I love it.

Judy Krieger is a retired Courier editor.