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.