Happy May Day!

May Day wasn’t one of the big holidays when I was a kid, at least not in my home town. Some years we made “baskets,” which were more like cones constructed by rolling a bit of construction paper and fastening a handle with a couple of staples. Finding flowers to fill them was a bit of a challenge. Some years our mother had daffodils and allowed us each to cut a couple of them. Once or twice there were lilacs, but that was pretty iffy that early in our town. There might be a few crocus and even a few tulips, but those were forbidden for us to pick. I remember at least one year when we made artificial flowers out of construction paper and glue for our May Day baskets.

The routine was to place the basket on someone’s porch, ring the bell and run. The story was that if you got caught placing the flowers you would get kissed. At that stage of my life, I was not in a mood to get kissed if I could avoid it. Mom’s kiss on our foreheads was unavoidable, and I don’t remember anything bad about it, but we pretty much avoided any other kissing. There was a lady who lived a block or so down the street from our house that we knew to avoid. If you ended up on her porch she was going to kiss you, like some of our aunts to whose kisses we had to submit. That lady down the street was still kissing kids when I was old enough to deliver her papers. I used to dread collecting for her paper because of the obligatory kiss at her front door. It never occurred to me to place a May Day basket at her house.

Actually, I wasn’t all that into arts and crafts at the time and flowers weren’t a primary interest, either, so I never got much farther than a May Day basket for our mother. That was easy, because we didn’t use the front door very often. If we rang the front doorbell, she had to go through the living room, through another door onto the porch, across the porch, and open the door. That gave plenty of time to be out of sight.

For the first time in my life, I live in a place where there is an abundance of blooms that could fill a May Day basket. I don’t know if May Day baskets are still a thing or not. We didn’t do them with our kids when they were little. I’ll be paying attention to our grandchildren when we see them later today.

I guess May Day isn’t going to go down as one of the big holidays in our family. Still, it is nice to have some blossoms in our yard even if there is an awful lot of weeding that needs to be done in this place. Someone advised me that renewing the mulch with fresh shredded wood would keep the weeds down in the beds. I followed their instructions and am of the impression that it did nothing to slow the growth of weeds. Now I have to mess with the mulch with each weed I pull, but that seems to be the only difference. Also the fresh mulch provides a bit more contrast in color for the new weeds, so I see them as soon as they emerge. It is a good thing I’m retired and have a few minutes to pull weeds every day.

I don’t know, but I’m not sure that dandelions are the preferred flowers for May Day baskets.

Traditions, of course, are always in transition. Each generation adds its own layer of meaning to the things inherited from the past. I didn’t know my maternal grandmother. She died before I was born. My paternal grandmother was always called “grandma.” Our aunts and uncles were addressed with the title: “Aunt Phoebe,” “Aunt Teddy,” “Aunt Myrna,” and so on. We used first names with our aunts and uncles, but last names with our grandparents. Even though we didn’t have multiple grandparents, we knew them as “Grandma Huffman.” We knew that “Grandma Lewis” had died.

Our children used the titles, but called their grandmothers by their first names, “Grandma Meg,” and “Grandma Charlotte.” I don’t remember ever having any discussion about what our kids would call their grandmothers, it just emerged.

Our grandchildren mostly address us by our first names. They know that we are their grandparents and they occasionally use the title, but for the most part we are called Ted and Susan. It seems perfectly natural to me. I read, recently, however, about how it is the custom, at least in some parts of the country, for grandparents to choose the title by which their grandchildren address them. Some don’t want to be called “grandpa,” but prefer “papa” or “gramps” or “big daddy” or “Baba” or “Opa” or “Geepa.” It never occurred to me that one of the obligations of being a grandfather was to specify how I would be addressed by my grandchildren. I don’t think I specified how I was to be addressed by our children. As adults, our son often calls me “daddy-o” and our daughter calls me “papa.” Both are music to my ears. I wouldn’t trade having our three-year-old granddaughter running up and hugging my legs while yelling, “Ted!” for anything. She can call me what she likes.

Based on my thoughts about how our grandchildren address us, I’m pretty sure that a May Day basket filled with dandelions would be a special treat. The flowers would probably end up in a vase for a day or so. I will not, however, run down any children and force them to kiss me, and I can’t imagine my wife doing that, either. There are parts of the tradition that I’m perfectly happy having go by the wayside.

Actually, if someone really wanted to impress me, they could pick all of the weeds out of the bed by the front door and then ring the bell. That would be a May Day treat to remember.