Saturday, April 30, 2011
The Great May Basket Competition
Although the history of May Day is seeped in pagan rituals and tradition, growing up as a child, it had only one purpose....May baskets and kisses! What an interesting little tradition. Whoever thought up the whole premise was pretty creative.
Each year, as May 1st approached, every mother and child would sit down at the dining room table and begin to create these wonderful things. Usually, you would start with Dixie cups or butter tubs, or cupcake holders. Pipe cleaners would be poked through the upper rim of the cup to form a handle, and lace, ribbon, magic markers, and other fancy gee gaws would be used to decorate the basket. The size and elaborateness of each basket was determined by the recipient. If it happened to be that special someone in 3rd or 4th grade....well, you did your best to make it stand out among the rest. My mom usually made me make one for everyone in my class, which amounted to at least twenty little baskets. Popcorn and candy corn were used as fillers with tootsie rolls, m & m's, and other tasty delights. I personally hated it when someone threw in some boston baked beans (those wrinkly hard rust-colored candies that only grandmothers liked). A little name tag was added to make sure you delivered them to the right person. When May first arrived, you would come home right after school and your mom and dad would load you and the baskets up in the car to be delivered. The tricky part was to keep them all from tipping over and spilling their contents all over the place. Muffin tins were especially handy to keep the little boogers from tipping over and creating a domino effect.
Now the part I haven't told you is that you would take the may basket, place it on the porch next to the door and knock. Then you ran like crazy back to the car...the reason being was that if the recipient caught you....they were to give you a big juicy kiss!!! Remember....I said my mom made me deliver them to everyone in my grade...you know....there is just some people in your class that you're not to crazy about receiving a big sloppy kiss on the cheek from!!
The feelings of anxiety are returning even now as I'm writing this. Okay...Dad would stop the little blue falcon in front of my classmates house....I would carefully pick out the may basket inching my way out of the car wondering why in the world would anyone want to be doing this right now. Dad tried to park on the same side of the street so I wouldn't come darting out across traffic and get myself killed in the process. I'd creep up to their front doors dreading steps of any kind....they made for a harder getaway. All eyes were on you as you'd bend over to place the basket somewhere where it wouldn't get knocked over in the process of the recipient dashing out of their door sending it flying, or kicking it over in the hullabaloo. Most of the time, they were spying out of their windows and were well aware that you were approaching with goodies. The door would open and I would let out a terrified scream and drop the basket anyway...stumbling down the stairs or twisting my ankle in a hole in the lawn. I wish I had a picture of my face during one of those chases. Most of the time, the recipient wouldn't chase you very far, but would return to pick up the offering you had left. Those were the good times. At other times, they would pursue me clear to the car, and my dad, thinking it was funny, would lock the car doors and let them chase me around the car and catch me, planting a slobbery kiss on my cheek! I can still hear his laughter as I would scream, "Dad...open the door. Let me in!" And finally, it would open and on to the next house we would go. It wasn't anything to get back home and have ten or fifteen baskets on your porch waiting for you when you returned. Some creative mothers would have giant tootsie rolls wrapped in a colorful napkin with the corners drawn up and a curly ribbon attached...no chance of tipping those critters over!
Anyway...my story continues in an unusual way. This one particular year, I had delivered a may basket to my cousin, Debbie. Well, when her dad got home, he asked her where she got that may basket. Debbie told him from me. Well, he was a little snockered, so he said, "He'd be darned if we were going to show him up." So he sent Debbie to the store and had here get a bunch of 5 cent candy bars. (This is the equivalent to our $1.00 candy bars today.) He helped her fix up a huge may basket filled with those candy bars and delivered them to me. That is all it took......the competition was on!!! The next may day, my dad had my mom make a gigantic cookie (like a double batch of cookie dough that filled a whole cookie sheet and delivered it to Uncle Milton. Not to be out done, he retaliated with something bigger and better. The next year, my dad fixed a huge brown box the size of a coffee table, and filled it with popcorn, candy and beer. Uncle Milton responded with something bigger and better. (I can't remember everything, but this went on for several years until my mother said enough was enough! They couldn't afford to keep this up. They let Uncle Milton think he had won and the competition ended. Unfortunately, so did the may basket tradition. Either, that, or we just got too old to do it anymore. I'm not really sure. It could also, have been the terror it struck in our hearts to hear the sound of a screen door opening and the pitter patter of two feet chasing you down the stairs, and two big lips puckered up to lay one on you! But, more than likely, it had something to do with working mothers and the price of candy!!!!!