Thursday, January 22, 2015
By Beatrice M. Hanson
May 1'st, once widely celebrated as “May Day," has in recent years petered out as far as the old custom of delivering May baskets is concerned.
May Day, in my childhood, was greatly looked forward to as a simple pleasure of “do it yourself,” a project to please and surprise the little friends you liked best.
I remember, a few days before the first, we called at the studio of the only paper-hanger in our town to ask for a sample, outdated, wallpaper book. Knocking timidly on the door, the elderly grey-haired man bid us enter. “What can I do for ye?” he asked us with an Irish twinkle in his eye. We told him our wishes. “What be ye do with them?" he asked us. “May baskets” we said together. Laying his pipe down on the window sill, he walked to the corner of the room, side stepping ladders and pots of paints, to bring back a huge sample book. “This do?” he asked us. Smiling out thanks we departed lugging the heavy book home.
Laying it down on the round oak dining room table, we began our basket-making. The samples themselves were fascinating to us. The glossy thickness of the Kitchen Material. The shades of oatmeal living room designs. Prettiest of all were the garlands of flowers in pastel shades for the bedroom. These we pulled out and rolled into cones, using the trim for handles. Tomorrow we would go to the meadows and gather bluettes and violets, to fill the baskets. If Mother allowed, a piece of home-made candy would be a special surprise.
Toward evening we would deliver our baskets and perhaps on our return, might find one or two on our own doorstep, A far cry from today’s expensive gift giving. Simple pleasures they were, but made with one’s own imagination and foresight they made the joy of remembrance as sweet and fresh as that May Day itself.