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Flowers of the rarest

Just past the halfway mark in May, and I finally remembered to do a May Altar! This picture is loaded with Crazy Stable significance.

The Flowers. From left to right: a golden rose whose name I'm unsure of; Climbing Don Juan (red); a lavender miniature rose; a columbine; and sage blossoms, plus some of the wildly invasive ferns.

The Stuff. The statue, charmingly amputated by a long-ago bout of over-vigorous dusting, came from the guest room of my Aunt Rosemary, my mother's amazingly Catholic sister and my godmother. The painting came from my Uncle Don, my father's brother. Their side of the family were either morbidly fascinated and appalled by Catholicism, or drawn into the faith as converts. (Don, the exception, viewed it with the same childlike delight he expressed for all faiths.)

The Issues. As a child in St. Anastasia School in Douglaston, I yearned feverishly every year to be chosen to decorate the classroom "May Altar." This was often a flimsy box or frame, which would be lavishly appointed with crepe paper and artificial blossoms; Mary would then be "crowned" with flowers during her month, in a procession with a floral coronet. The boys could've cared less, but the girls--aspiring Martha Stewarts, some of us--keenly craved decorating duty. Every year, it seemed, the clueless sister or lay teacher would assign this juicy task to...one or two of the most jock-like, loutish girls in the class. Girls who frankly could've cared less. They would do, of course, what I perceived as a wretched and perfunctory job, while I fumed in silent frustrated artistry.

NOT ANY MORE!!! This baby's all mine! Mine, I tell you! (Yes, another Catholic tradition that imbued me with lifelong charity and humility...)

NEXT-DAY UPDATE: Some wretched, impious klutz of a cat knocked over the statue and decapitated Baby Jesus, and spilled one of the vases. Remarkably, no vases were shattered, but the most suspect cat was rapped sharply on the skull by Spouse with the walnut-sized marble head of Our Saviour. The tradition of May Altar Agony continues...

The song par excellence for May Crownings is "Flowers of the Rarest." To this day, it brings up in me a swelling tide of vicious jealousy and the desire to ram crepe paper down the throat of a stocky ginger-haired softball champion. Here is a wonderfully insipid version by Canadian tenor John McDermott, followed by the lyrics.


Bring Flowers of the Rarest

Bring flow'rs of the fairest, Bring flow'rs of the rarest,

From garden and woodland And hillside and vale;

Our full hearts are swelling, Our glad voices telling

The praise of the loveliest Rose of the vale.


O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,

Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May,

O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,

Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.

Our voices ascending, In harmony blending,

Oh! Thus may our hearts turn Dear Mother, to thee;

Oh! Thus shall we prove thee How truly we love thee,

How dark without Mary Life's journey would be. [Chorus]

O Virgin most tender, Our homage we render,

Thy love and protection, Sweet Mother, to win;

In danger defend us, In sorrow befriend us,

And shield our hearts From contagion and sin. [Chorus]

Of Mothers the dearest, Oh, wilt thou be nearest,

When life with temptation Is darkly replete?

Forsake us, O never! Our hearts be they ever

As pure as the lilies We lay at thy feet.

Posted on Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 11:57AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | CommentsPost a Comment

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