Who Remembers May Day?
I made May Day baskets with construction paper, paper lace doilies, or wallpaper samples. Wallpaper samples, torn from the book, were the best; they were stiffer and had pretty designs already. Sometimes a rectangle could be slit on the corners and folded into an actual basket, then a handle added. The wallpaper made a good cone, to which a handle could be added. Imagine, if we’d had Elmer’s Glue in the 50s, how great these would have been! But we used mucilage or our own lumpy paste of flour and water. I remember a really nice one I made one time using a darning needle and yarn. I stitched it! Baskets could be decorated with ribbons or crayon. We didn’t have glitter!
Popcorn, penny candies, and flowers from the garden filled up the May Day baskets. I suppose if we’d had those tiny candy bars individually wrapped for Halloween, we would have used those. But, we didn’t have those. We popped our own popcorn. One year my friend Muggs had her mom make a batch of her famous Kettle Corn and she gave us all some to put in our baskets. Pansies were the early flower of choice in Michigan, often about the only flower blooming on May first, though I also remember violets being used. One year it snowed late and there were no flowers. I made carnations out of Kleenex and put them in the cone with popcorn.
Usually the basket was delivered by hanging it on the doorknob. We’d ring the bell and hide in the bushes. We gave it to a friend, or someone we wanted to be a friend, old people, sick folks, and of course, “the boy” who hadn’t yet noticed he was selected to be “the special boy.”
I remember making one for David Clark, the neighborhood bully. He was mean to the girls, said naughty things and stole. My mom couldn’t believe I wanted to take it to his house. I begged my brother to go with me on our bikes. I didn’t want anyone to see me or to know about it. I hated and feared this kid. I knew nobody had ever given him a May basket and probably never would. I decided that was what was wrong with him. If he had a May Day basket, maybe he’d be nice! It didn’t work out quite how I hoped. I also remember making one for my first heart-throb, Richard Fox. I sat near him in class. He was the tallest kid in the class, which might have been intimidating except that he was so nice. He was nice to everyone, but especially us girls. He sang The Marine’s Hymn loudly and always said he would be a Marine when he grew up. I wasn’t sure exactly what a boyfriend was, but my Aunts and Grandmas always asked if I had a boyfriend. I decided if I had a friend who was a boy, it must be Richard Fox. He lived close to my friend Sandy, so she and I rigged a plan to get my May Day Basket to Richard’s door.
Writing experts say “Write what you know.” I guess that’s what I was doing when I wrote the chapter May Day in Avery’s Crossroad. In his honest boy style, Avery wonders what May Day baskets are good for, why girls would like them. But he buys one anyway to give to Claire, because he thought it would please her. Though it’s near the end of book two, it’s the beginning of Avery’s awakening.
Whatever happened to the May Day basket tradition?