The song from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel has been playing in my head all week. The garden is lush with blossoms, the air melodious with birdsong. Who could not sing, dance, and frolic? In the musical, the high spirits of “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” lead into the death and redemption of an unemployed carnival barker who robs to support his wife and unborn child. Joy and woe are woven fine.
Carousel opened on Broadway in April 1945, as World War II was winding down. It was a season of hope. The troops would soon come home to set off a baby boom. Prosperity would replace wartime privation. It was also a season of mourning for the fallen who would never come home, and for their commander-in-chief. President Franklin Roosevelt had died exactly a week before the show opened.
The waning of the pandemic brings another season of joy and woe, hope and loss. Instead of blackout curtains, we begin to shed the face masks we wore to protect our communities. Vacation travel and nonessential shopping are making a comeback, as they did after WWII. At the same time, we are mourning the closure of favorite restaurants and bookstores. We grieve loved ones for whom the possibility of vaccination came too late.
It doesn’t negate the sorrows to celebrate the joys. I’m off to pull weeds from among the flowers, while “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” plays over and over in my head.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.