At least it used to be, and I don’t think times have changed that much, when I think about it. Tomorrow is the 17th of May, our National Day, and we celebrate our day with children parades and festivities. The May 17 celebrations vary from place to place, but usually follow a traditional pattern that makes this the highlight of the year for most Norwegian children. A must in the celebrations are the children’s parades, made up of school classes marching with the school band through the local community. Most of the children carry small Norwegian flags and the route is lined with enthusiastic onlookers. Dressed in their best, the children then engage in games and activities, and for many this is the one day of the year where the supply of ice cream and hot dogs is endless.
When I grew up, my Mom used to be extra multitasking on the night of 16th of May.
My eldest brother was a member of the school marching band, so she had to make his uniform in order, and his shoes had to shine. Shine did also his trombone, which he played, and I think something triggered my Mom into make his instrument the shiniest one in the band. Of course, this was only to show off to the neighbours who were less organized, and sent their kids out with stains and finger-marks.
My sister, was the not-so proud owner of a Norwegian folks costume already at an early age, this because my Mom had been using months one winter to follow a course in sawing this beautiful costume. It was impressive, and I must mention that these costumes are highly popular these days, but back in our childhood, there weren’t that many children with folkloric costumes. And I know my sister dreamt about having a nice summer dress, like some of her more popular friends. All though were less urban than she wanted it to be, it caused a lot of work for my Mom, to prepare it. Especially the white shirt, and all the silver had to be taken care of, – it took her hours to make it all shine and sparkle. Then there was the arguing about what shoes to were, my sister seemed to have grown out of her shoes every year, and this was only discovered on this last night. One year my Mom drove an hour to exchange shoes with my cousins, and another year my sister walked the parade in my Moms shoes, two numbers to big…
Well, by the time my eldest brothers uniform and my sisters folk costume were prepared, we normally had to go to bed. My mom continued to prepare for the celebrations after we said goodnight. I remember to always falling into sleep accompanied by the noise of her sewing machine. It was time to finish my youngest brother new jacket and shorts. I remember his disapproval of his outfit the next morning, when he discovered he once again had a good chance of being an English prep-school boy. His mood improved quickly when he met his friends in similar clothes and when my Mom started talking about making a boys folkloric costume for next year.
And then there was me. I usually woke up one time during the night by my Mom taking my measures for my new dress, and quietly shushing me back to sleep. My dresses for the 17th of May were usually in the colours of red, white and blue, and very often I matched my Mom.
The last thing my Mom did, was preparing my Dads suite, and ironing the six small flags for the parade. These six flags were marked with our names, and they lasted year after year. I thought of this today, when I saw a woman buying new flags, telling her husband that she had now idea were last year’s flags were, unless he knew?
When I think about all the preparations my Mom had for this day, I understand why she never were as enthusiastic about the day as the rest of us. I hope that today’s parents have more joy in the celebrations, and I hope they get a bit more sleep than my Mom used to.
HAPPY 17.th of May to everyone.
And eat lots of icecream. If you need an excuse to eat icecream, tomorrow is your day, just tell everyone that you are celebrating with the Norwegians!
Me and my Dad on May 17th 1976
My brother, in the parade 1976