Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy May(o) Day!

So yeah, Happy May Day, everybody!  Or the International Workers' Day, if that's how you roll.  And not that it matters to anyone in the US but it should still be noted that the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago lies directly at the holiday's roots.  

Anyway, a few months ago my dad got a hold of a lost batch of photos from the old country.  This here is Minsk, USSR.  May Day 1975.

My earliest memory of the holiday must be circa 1984.  I remember dad and I being sent on a seemingly impossible errand by my mom.  Our mission was to obtain a jar of mayonnaise for the festive dinner that evening.  We searched high and low, stopping in every grocery shop in our neighborhood.  A few times we openly got laughed at for asking about mayo on a holiday.  Sure, it was like looking for face value World Series tickets, but we were desperate.

And then, just as we were ready to give up and face mom's disappointment, we turned the corner and saw a long line streaming out of last the grocery on our list.  Without a word to each other we made a beeline for it.  This was Soviet Union so what was on the other end of the queue was irrelevant.  Whatever it was, we needed it.  Toilet paper, bananas, or carburetors.  The chances of it actually being mayo were pretty negligible but that didn't matter.  If were to fail our original mission, surely mom's fury would be softened with the obtainment of another high-deficit  item.

We stood in line for a good half-hour before we got to the stage where people began to casually wonder how much whatever it is we're buying may cost.  And how big is it.  Suddenly I spotted a little white jar flashing above a crowd.  What was that?  Surely it couldn't be...but wait, there it is again!  Holy crap, we couldn't believe our luck.  Of all the things in the world it actually was MAYO!  The rumor spread like wildfire and the back of the line began pushing forward.  Dad locked my hand into his with a grip of death and we became one with the mob.  

Before long we could see the counter and the iron-faced sales lady with the stacks of yellowish rubles between her fat fingers.  As she calmly announced that she was now opening the last case of mayo, dad grabbed me by the hood of my coat and whispered "Go!" propelling me forward through the crowd.  With the money in my outstretched hand I arrived at the counter to see the last little jar pass in front of my face and into the clammy hands of a desperate looking engineer.

There was no time to think.  The possibility of walking away empty handed was too horrible and I resorted to the only weapon I had left.  "Waaaaah!!!  Maaammmaaaaaa!!!"  The tears were real and it surprised me how easily they came.

And so did the mayo.

The woman reached down and pulled her reserve jar from under the counter and handed it to me.

"Happy May Day, little girl!"

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