Friday, April 30, 2010

Do You Remember May Baskets?

Today I bought some Gerber Daisies for the May Baskets for my friends. Well, it will probably be just a flower this year instead of a real basket of anything, but the thought will be same. The clerk admired these lovely daisies, and when I told her what they were for, she tossed me a blank look. A woman sporting a wrinkle or two and with teenagers at home, she had never heard of the May Basket tradition. I think it is sad that this lovely toast to spring is fading away.
When I was a child, everyone made a May Basket or two. Our class made some at school for decorating bulletin boards. At home, I spent several evenings each spring making them at the kitchen table for my little pals and older neighbors. Sometime in April Mom would drop by the lumber yard where she picked up old wallpaper books that had been saved for us. You had to get your name in early as many families asked for one or two of the huge books with wallpaper samples. Once the books were home, I tore out my favorite pages choosing colors and patterns carefully. I rolled the pages into cones or mitered corners on squares and stapled on a paper handle.

My paternal grandmother lived about a block away and had a large yard with lilacs and spirea that she let me cut for my May baskets. The branches of fragrant flowers were worked in around candies, gum, and a cookie or two Mom had made. Then about dusk she drove me around to my friends’ houses, parking discreetly a half a block away. I snuck up to each porch, hung a paper basket on the door knob, and gave a quick knock while shouting, “May Basket!”. Then I raced so fast back to the car I thought my chest would burst as we tried, successfully once in a while, to make a get clean get away, leaving the recipient to puzzle out who left the basket. What fun! What a simple and harmless tradition, one infectious with nothing but pure joy.

The clerk today at the gardening center was excited when I left. She said she was going to tell her young teen daughter about this tradition and try to interest her in doing May Baskets. I am not sure such a humble event can compete with texting and such, but I hope the girl gives it a try.


BECKY said...

I think it's a lovely idea, too! I remember "knowing" about May baskets, but I don't remember actually making any. Could be one of those memories "lost in space"! I also forgot to say in my other comment, that your bathroom looks great!

Tammy said...

OH! I wrote about this in my blog! I thought my neighborhood in Omaha, NE was the only one that did this!!! We even used wallpaper samples. The only difference is that we didn't shout anything after we rang the doorbell. It's good to hear of someone else who knows about this lovely tradition!

Bookie said...

Thanks for visiting, Tammy. Nebraska and Kansas have similiar prairie hearts!

irishoma said...

Hi Claudia,

May baskets rings a bell, but not a loud one. It would be wonderful if the young woman you mentioned would re-start the lovely tradition.

One vivid memory I recall from the month of May was the annual May crowning in our parish school. Each May the girls in 6th-8th grades dressed in semiformals and created a living rosary. After parishoners recited the rosary, one 8th-grade girl was selected as the May Queen. She had the honor of crowning a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a wreath of fresh flowers, while everyone else sang hyms appropriate for the celebration.
Thanks for sparking that memory for me.

irishoma said...

Oops. I just noticed my misspelling of hymns.

deborahjbarker said...

What a lovely tradition. Such a shame when the simple pleasures are lost but with people like you to remind us of them, they can never be truly forgotten eh?
Last winter, mysterious baskets of fresh bread were left on doorsteps in the holiday town where we have a second home. For weeks it was not known who was responsible. It turned out to be a new baker who was setting up in the area. What a delightful marketing ploy that was and so much nicer than receiving a bland leaflet!

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