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May Day memories

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 12:33 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 28, 2014 8:20 a.m. CDT

When I was a kid, May Day was a big deal. We spent days crafting "baskets" from construction paper and/or tissue paper. We used lively spring-colored crayons and oodles of paste — the kind that lived in a jar with a brush. Each year we attempted to create more elaborate May baskets — all which contained that all-important handle that would ultimately be hung on the doorknob of someone special.

Our handicraft started in mid-April, and rainy days held the perfect opportunity to secretly work on our masterpieces. Now that I think back, they were really pretty cool, especially since we had to be rather ingenious with the items we used to turn everyday household items into something beautiful.

I can remember one May Day basket in particular. It was for my mom, and I believe I crafted it from a box of kitchen matches — you know that cardboard box that slides in and out of a cardboard cover. The empty box was the perfect piece to decorate with pastel colored tissue paper. If I remember correctly, I wrapped three piece of tissue paper around the small box, and then I cut "fringe" in the blue, pink and yellow paper. I don't remember what I used for the handle, but I do know I braided similar colors and glued them inside the box. As an adult, I now might question my creativity, however from a child's point of view, I was impressed enough to have remembered it all these years.

Finding items to put inside our May Day baskets was just as fun as making them. We were usually allowed to buy a few pieces of candy from Anderson Bros. or the Red & White. Other items that made their way into the baskets were some freshly snipped dandelions or violets — lilacs if they happened to be in bloom. Occasionally we'd find a pretty rock that would also be placed in the basket or some other trinket we thought would be just about perfect.

When May 1 finally arrived, those May Day baskets would be first and foremost on our minds. If it happened to fall on a school day, we could barely concentrate on our studies in anticipation of the May basket deliveries later in the day. When the school bus stopped in front of our house, we'd be off and running for the house, where the May baskets waited — hidden under the bed or in our closets.

We'd wait for just the right time, when Grandma and Mom would least expect it, and then we'd sneak outside — May baskets in tow. You have to remember we seldom had visitors knocking on our door, since we lived in the country and salesmen and other random door-knockers just didn't appear. So we'd plot and plan and giggle and wait for just the right moment, before we'd hang our May baskets on the door and then knock on the old screen door as hard as our youthful hands could muster. Then we'd run like crazy and hide, secretly watching as our adults answered the door and found our creation — complete with treats.

"Now what in the world is this?" they'd say, acting more surprised than we'd every suspect. "Who brought us a May basket? Well, we better find whoever left this!"

With those words, we'd be off and running — not so fast because part of the fun was getting caught. And when you finally did get caught, the adult would give us a big kiss as they admired our handiwork. Smiles ran rampant. Giggles were abundant. And the adults made us feel as if we'd created a masterpiece. Another memory etched into my mind for safe keeping.

Do kids still make and deliver May baskets? I'm not sure, but if you have youngsters in your family, I hope you'll bring back this time-tested tradition of fun and creativity, mixed with a good share of giggles. After all, couldn't we all use a May basket, created with love by youthful hands. I think that's a memory work making.

BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@bcrnews.com.

Putnam County Record Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@putnamcountyrecord.com.

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