My May Altar

By Colette Moore

The sadness overwhelms me, even though I’d always been told I’d had the “gift of the gab” on this occasion I’m lost for words, not so much lost, but trying to find the right words.


I’m sad because such a huge part of my childhood is lost to memory, I’m trying to explain to a beautiful, angelic little face with eyes filled with wonder and devilment in his fingertips all about my May Altar. I’m telling him my memories as I waited and waited and watched for my Daddy coming home from work. As he reached the top of the bridge he’d wave and my feet would take flight running to meet him coming home from working on the bog. Daddy always had his arms full of the most wonderful flowers, always 2 bunches, one especially for mammy and the other bunch was for us.


Our May altar was washed and polished and waiting to be adorned with blossoms of May. “What’s an altar Nana” says he, I’m explaining “It’s like a table, only it has 3 arches, A large arch in the centre, and smaller arch each side” “What’s an arch doing on the table Nana? Says he. Well in the large arch is the statue of Our Lady, in the smaller arch’s is St. Joseph and the Child of Prague. What’s all them “start-urs” how do you say it Nana? I go to my kitchen and I take down my Statue of the Blessed Virgin and show him. “Oh Nana I seen her on your window, but who’s the other one you said” I take down my Child of Prague and show him. I told him that we always place this statue in the backyard when we wanted a fine day, maybe for a school tour or communion.


This is just to much information and his voice whispers- “That’s just silly Nana”. “Oh no it was wonderful, we were full of excitement and wonder and we would pray for a for a fine day we had so much hope”. “Well Nana” says he, “You should just Google it, that’s what Mammy does, and I, get in trouble if I leave my toys out in the back”.


“But, Sweetheart my altar belonged to my Nana Powell and it was a huge part of my childhood and it was precious because it belonged to her. And for the month of May our bedroom had the most beautiful smells like Lilac and bog heather. I had such pride in minding our beautiful May alter, I’d kneel there to say my prayers.

“Nana where’s your May altar now says he? “Ach, I don’t know Pet, its gone years ago”. “Oh Nana can I watch television now?” says he. Sadly I go to my kitchen and replace my statues and fix my flowers in front of Mary, as I leave them there, I’m leaving my memories also.


As I turn to walk away, a little voice says softly “Nana when I grow up, I’m going to make you a new May altar”.


13th May 2020

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