Red Tulips

By Georgia Finnegan

It’s May.  It’s May.  The Lusty Month of May.  I distinctly remember May Day, 1977.   An early morning dawn woke me with its rose-dipped wisps of sunlight streaming through my windows.  I quietly got out of bed, headed to the hutch cabinet in the living room and pulled out my new vinyl album of the original Broadway musical, Camelot.  I removed its cover, turned on the turntable, and directed the diamond-needled arm to the track where Julie Andrews, as Queen Guinevere, sings her hallelujah to the month of May.  My body moved and twirled to the May Day music.  That was 1977; my primordial rite of spring had begun.  Not one lusty May Day has been missed when I play that recording and dance.  My children grew up hearing the song blaring throughout our home.  My ballet students knew that if May Day landed on a day when I taught class, inevitably a wild, almost ecstasy-like, ballet exercise was demonstrated for them to do.

I relish springtime and May fills me with abounding energy as I revel in new birth and beginnings.  It is as though May is my inside person’s birthday, while January is my public person’s actual one.  From the white mantle of winter and its hours of robed darkness, spring bursts into the fiber of my being.  I search my garden for the early intimations of new life.  I search for the signs of buds, unbelievably pushing through the crust of bark and branches.  I drive across a nearby bridge over the Mississippi River, craning my neck so my Irish green eyes can absorb the beauty of the tiny lime green tree buds.

Georgia Sitting on a bench under a cherry tree in bloom With its delectable scents and sounds, May brings sweet and soothing memories of the mothers on the maternal side of my family–Mom, Granny, and Mum.  These strong-willed women gave me courage to take what life gives me and make the most of it.  This May I finished reading Next Year in Havana, by Chanel Cleeton, where maternal courage and resiliency spam generations of women.  These same quintessential characteristics describe my own maternal legacy.  My great-grandmother, Mum, danced and sang beautifully, but the Great Depression had her hanging wallpaper for extra income instead of performing.  My grandmother, Granny, was a “Rosie the Riveter” during the 1940’s and lost a finger on the job.  Once healed, she went back to work.  My mother, Frances, can best be described with an excerpt from her obituary, written by my nephew, Jack Finnegan:  Nurse, mother and grandmother, she nurtured, taught and protected with strength, faith, humility and humor.  A towering, generous spirit who gave selflessly.

May marks a date when courage and resiliency changed the course of my life forever.  On May 4, 1992, in the prime of health I had a cerebral hemorrhage.  Even though I was in and out of lucidity, I vividly recall being in intensive care and my doctor telling me that my sisters were here and wanted to see me, but they could not.  Out of my weakness, a resilient strength grabbed his wrist, pressed my fingernails into his skin and told him, “I must see my sisters.”  He acquiesced and said they could come in, but only for 30 seconds.  Once in my room, I remember my youngest sister, Kathleen, telling me, “I brought you the only flowers blooming in my garden, three red tulips, but they won’t let me bring them in.”

Every May 4th since 1992, Kathleen and I send each other tulips, and red ones if they are available.   I live with a slight weakness on my left side from the hemorrhage; only a ballet instructor may notice it.  I was meant to dance and to continue living.  I embraced my new lease on life from that day forward and stopped putting ballet on the backburner of my life journey.  From May 4th onward, ballet and dance became integral to my being.  As I finished this blog, I poured myself a glass of wine and cheered, Salut! A toast not to finishing this blog, but to life and the strength and resiliency I have to keep dancing and teaching ballet. Cheers to life in abundance!A field of red tulips

Georgia Finnegan served as the Advancement Director for Minnesota Dance Theatre in 2017-18, and currently as an advisor to its Board of Directors. With over 30 years in the nonprofit industry in Minnesota, she focuses on education, and arts administration. Georgia, founder of Saint Paul City Ballet (renamed St. Paul Ballet in 2014), continued its growth and development for sixteen years, garnering foundation, corporate, and individual donor support. Georgia works with her husband, Erik Saulitis, a dance photographer, helping market his business, Danceprints. She is a firm believer that the arts, in partnership with corporate, business, and community support, augment the economy of a city and increases the vitality and aesthetic beauty of its community.

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