Mythical Monday: Divining Love by Mae Clair

Young fashionably dressed couple with man in a top hat holding roseAs someone who reads and writes romance, it doesn’t surprise me that from the first glimmer of time, women—especially young girls—have had an insatiable curiosity to learn who their future husband might be. When I was a kid, there was a board game my friends and I used to play called Mystery Date.  I don’t remember much about it other than you collected cards and then spun a dial on a door to find out who your mystery date would be. The guys waiting on the other side ranged from a suave dancer in coat and tie, to a laid back surfer in beach clothing, and a string of others in between. Even then, as ten-year-old girls, we wanted to know the kind of guy we were going to end up with.

Women of the past were no different and often employed tricks of nature and time to catch a glimpse of their future husband. Certain days and seasons worked better than others, with some rituals highly involved, others basic. Of the later variety, a girl might place a two-leafed clover in her right shoe before venturing outside. The first man she encountered would either be her future husband or bear the same name. What a contrast, huh?

To discern the trade of the man she was destined to marry, all a girl had to do was gaze out her window on Valentine’s Day. The first bird she spied told the tale: Blackbirds indicated a cleric, a robin a sailor, a goldfinch a rich man. But woe to the poor maiden who spotted a woodpecker, for it was a certain indication she would never marry.

On Midsummer’s Eve maidens plucked rose blossoms and placed the petals beneath their pillows before falling asleep. On this magical night dreams were given power, allowing the girl to glimpse her future husband as she slept. The image would remain with her when she awoke, allowing her to recognize her true love in the waking world.

Happy groom and bride outdoors

On the eve of St. Agnes, the patron saint of virgins, girls would bake a mixture of flour, water, eggs, and salt, called a “dumb cake.” It had to be prepared in absolute silence and eaten before retiring.  If done correctly, the girl would meet her future husband in her dreams.

Another trick—performed on any night—was to walk around a churchyard twelve times at midnight. And, finally, on Christmas Eve, maidens prepared a feast to attract a husband. Like the dumb cake, the banquet had to be prepared in silence. The girl would set a sumptuous repast on the table then hide nearby. If a man appeared and ate the meal, he would marry her within the year. But the forces of darkness were at their peak in winter, and sometimes brought ill omens rather than favor. Should some foul monster devour the feast instead, it was a sign the poor maiden was doomed to marry a man who would make her miserable.

I’m sure there are many more superstitions related to seeing the future love of your life. I recall one about placing your shoes in the form of a “T” before going to bed, and I know there are several related to May Day. Can you think of any others? Have you ever tried any? I remember doing the shoe trick as a tween, but why I would have been thinking about a husband then, escapes me now.

Maybe I’ve just always been a diehard romantic. In any event, I met the right man. Dream or no dream, it’s beautiful magic.

In Honor of Gloria Mae, by Mae Clair

Although spring officially begins in March, I’ve always considered May 1st as the true date of the season’s arrival. Perhaps it has to do with treasured memories of May Day from childhood or, perhaps, that everything is green and blooming, no longer mired in the muddy browns and bleak charcoals of a fading winter. May 1st holds a special place in my heart – – not only for the renewal it brings, but because it’s my mother’s birthday.

Me and my mom, a few years ago during a beach vacation. She loved the shore. Wow, my hair was short!

Me and my mom, several years ago during a beach vacation. She loved the shore!

She passed away last year on the first day of summer, timing that is oddly poetic to me. Spring, a season of newness and light, gave way to one of warmth and eternal promise, as if summer wanted to embrace her as well.

Had my mother lived, she would have been ninety this year. Rather than write a post to mark her passing in June, I chose today – – her birthday – – to celebrate her life.

It’s been hard without her for my siblings and me. We‘re a close family and we each struggle with the loss, but we’re blessed in knowing that our mother had a long, fulfilling life.

I was fortunate to have not only a mother/daughter relationship with my mom, but an abiding friendship as well.  From the time I was in my middle twenties, my mom and I spent practically every Saturday together – – shopping, the movies, lunch, sometimes all three in one day. We had shopping marathons, discussed movies, swapped books, purses and jewelry. I can trace my love of reading directly to my mother and father and, to this day, it feels odd to try on clothes and not have her there to give her opinion. She would often tell me I was too conservative and needed more “flash.” 😀

My mom (center) and her sisters. This is how I remember her -- always the life of the party.

My mom (center) and her sisters. This is how I remember her — always the life of the party.

Extremely young at heart, she went dancing until she was almost 80 and drove until she was 85. Eventually age and infirmity caught up with her, but she never lost her love for life. We no longer did shopping marathons but we did still go shopping. Mostly for books in those later years. We would collect our bounty, then stake out a table in Border’s café for a few hours and chat before making the way to the checkout with our purchases.

There is so much I could say in this post about who she was – – her love of glitzy clothes and fashionable rings, how she loved dancing (especially disco), or she how enjoyed going out . . . even if it was just to run to the mall for the afternoon. But what stands out most was something that struck me during the last couple years of her life.

My mother was always a socializer when she was out and about. She walked into a room and commanded it, and had the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. What amazed me — and I came to appreciate those last few years — was her natural charm. It wasn’t fabricated, never a façade. My mother had a gift to make anyone she talked to feel like they were the most important person in the world. I saw it time and time again with everyone she encountered. Why had I never noticed it before?

Another shot of me and my mom at the beach. Part of a yearly girls' trip with my sister.

Another shot of me and my mom at the beach. Part of a yearly girls’ trip with my sister.

Was it because that last year of her life was spent in a nursing home, where so many people struggled just to function? And yet my mother always had a kind word, compliment, and a friendly smile. It didn’t matter if you were a resident, medical personnel or staff. Even if she had a down day (and it’s hard not to in a nursing home), she still had compliments for anyone she encountered. People naturally gravitated to her because she made them feel special – – and in her eyes they were. That gift comes from the heart. It makes me wonder if I could do the same, facing similar circumstances. So many people told me, “Your mother is such a delight.” That tells me she touched many hearts, not just mine.

I don’t have her charisma. I am much more of a loner. As I’m the youngest of four siblings, my mom was fond of telling me “You’re my baby.” That never got old, even though I did. 🙂

So in memory of my mother, Gloria Mae, the daughter of Italian immigrants who found the love of her life in a stubborn, blond-haired, blue-eyed German, I’d much rather remember her life than her passing.

For all that you’ve taught me and all that you’re continuing to teach me – – Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you. What a reunion we’ll have . . . some day.

Mom Xmas at Lakewood Hills