That Shocking Time Of Year


As a small child I was particularly partial to the “Camelot” soundtrack (a fact that will surprise exactly no one). My mother had a well-played and  much-loved LP of the Broadway cast recording and my paternal grandfather owned the 8- track (one of two, his other was Nancy Wilson—not that one— singing the Gershwin songbook) which he played loudly in his giant Lincoln, as he alcoholically slalomed round the mountainous curves between Bristol, VA and Asheville, NC.

There was a lot about “Camelot” I struggled to puzzle out as a child. Like I couldn’t figure out why Merlin wasn’t more of a character or why Guinevere would pick Robert Goulet over Richard Burton. And what was going on  with Richard Harris’ eyeliner in the movie version? Also, I wasn’t sure what part of the story was about JFK (maybe Act II?)[1]. But I liked knights and I liked Guinevere and I loved to sing along with Julie Andrews.  I was particularly partial to the St. Genevieve song, because St Genevieve’s was the name of a parochial school in Asheville where approximately half of my friends went. It didn’t surprise me that Guinevere was an alumna.  St Genevieve’s had nuns, which struck me as fascinating and kind of glamorous. Also, according to my friend Amy, St Genevieves had a Soft-Serv machine in the lunchroom, which was the kind of mind-boggling extravagance my young mind could hardly comprehend. Of course, the Queen of Camelot would go there! And I would do what the simple folk do. Attend public school and eat hard ice cream from Dixie Cups with those wooden spoons I was irrationally afraid would give me splinters in my tongue.

But my very favorite song was “The Lusty Month of May,” even though I wasn’t entirely clear was “lusty” meant except that I surmised it involved either boobs or mustard. Possibly both.  Also something about a pole with ribbons, which always looked more fun in illustration that I assumed it would be in real life. Altogether, it seemed as if May might be a worthy month if Guinevere seemed so happy about it, maybe even the best month, and (as it relevant today) has held on to the #1 Slot in My Favorite Months list for a record number of years.

There’s something so gloriously anticipatory about May, the gradually warming, increasingly light threshold of summer, full of all the best flowers and newly verdant streets and twilights that last for hours and hours. I could spend my whole life in May and be perfectly happy about never resolving into blushing June or falling back into dour April. Just leave me here with the  heroic, Puritan-trolling pagans and the righteous rabble-rousers. I’ll bring the pink wine and the strawberries and  cue up the “Camelot” soundtrack. Don’t worry. We can totally turn it off before it gets to the part with the Kennedys.

These elisions did not create the unambiguously happy endings my mother intended. I was a curious, precocious child, perceptive to edits, inclined to do her own research and visionary of Worst Case Scenarios. Mom ended up having to tell me, in detail, the actual plotlines of movies I was not allowed to see so I wouldn’t sit up, terrified at night, envisioning something worse. Still, I never really believed the Von Trapps didn’t die in Dachau until I finally watched the end of the movie, which happened sometime around my tenth birthday. I was so indescribably relieved that I cried.

[1] I was convinced there must be another volume to the soundtrack that had Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.” I figured my mother had hidden because she thought I couldn’t handle the assassination, just like she always turned off the TV when Maria and Captain Von Trapp got married in “The Sound of Music,” but before the Nazis got involved.


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