On May 12, 1936, when I was born, Canada was a much different place than it is today. It was in the midst of the Great Depression. Families everywhere were scrambling to eke out an existence. Most lived a dirt-poor rural existence at a subsistence level, my family included. We were about to lose half our farm to creditors. A loaf of bread cost 8 cents. Gasoline was 10 cents a gallon. A car cost $600. The average salary was $1713. A new house could be purchased for $3900. Life expectancy was around 60 years of age. We were all hanging on by our finger nails.
When I reached the age of reason I realized that May 12 was not a very eventful day in history. A quick search of fairly recent historical records will confirm this fact. Only two dates stand out, but only marginally. In 1789 William Wilberforce made his first major speech on abolition in Britain’s House of Commons, condemning slavery. His plea fell on deaf ears for decades before this terrible blight on humanity ended. On May 12, 1943 the German army in North Africa surrendered, leading to the Axis powers’ complete collapse the next day. The North African surrender was a promising step forward for our side, but didn’t end the Second World War. It took two more years before the carnage ended and victory was complete. And so you see, for more than two centuries, May 12 has been a rather unremarkable day in history. Except for me of course, when I first saw the light of day! Without question, from a strictly egotistical point of view, it has more significance for me than any event that has occurred on that day, since 1789!
In Dundas, Ontario, where I live, May 12 was, and is, the loveliest day of the year. It bursts with new life! It seems that on this day, Mother Nature strikes up the band. She unleashes a cascade of miracles that no human can ever match, or exceed. All we have to do is stand, stare, and absorb the miraculous transformation taking place all around us. This year was no exception.
An open bedroom window at 5:30 in the morning serves as a conduit for choir sounds of full-throated songsters pulsing from the nearby treetops on the street as dawn begins to break. They are not just singing. They are pelting it out as if they are anxious that the whole world knows they have arrived in all their finery. Blue Jays, cardinals, orioles, and robins take solo turns, backed up by flocks of tiny, flitting sparrows of every description. Together they make it clear that they are delighted to be welcoming the balmy weather. Awakening to these sounds while stretched out in bed under light covers has to be one of life’s golden moments. It is extra special on my birthday! Later, enjoying early morning coffee in my sunroom, the birds continue to serenade me through wide open windows, with their impromptu musical concert, until shortly after sunrise.
Only a few weeks ago my community was covered in mounds of ice and snow. By May 12 it was all gone. Looking out my windows there are now more than 70 multi-coloured tulips swaying gently in the warm breeze in my front garden an equal number out back. The brown lawn has sprung to life with a soft green carpet that now covers bare patches of winter kill. Arching overhead, branches of my maple and birch trees are bursting their buds and sprouting light green young leaves that will quickly mature into enveloping lush canopies, lasting until winter comes again. Looking up through the countless number of sunlit leaves into an azure sky is sheer delight.