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May Day

May 1, 2015

May Day coneToday is The first of May, a day on which we children used to surprise our neighbors with small bouquets of spring flowers. The posies were plucked from our mothers’ gardens and tucked into small paper cones made with ribbon handles. We made the cones from colored construction paper covered with springtime decorations (usually crayon-drawn tulips because tulips are easy to draw). We’d punch holes in the tops and tie ribbons or string across the top of the cones. The bit with the ribbon was tricky — you had to make it long enough to loop over a doorknob without it smushing the flowers, and you had to tie it to the cone loosely enough that it wouldn’t tear the paper. Sometimes it took a few tries to get the cone and string just right.

After we’d made enough cones, we’d sneak over to each neighbor’s house (sneaking was important because the whole operation was meant to be a surprise), hook the flower-filled cone over the doorknob, ring the doorbell, and then hide around the corner of the house. When our neighbor opened the door to answer the bell, we’d leap out and yell, “Happy May Day!” The neighbor would pat her chest and exclaim “Oh, my! What a surprise! Happy May Day to you, too.” We learned quickly not to offer our May Day surprise to the house where the husband worked nights and tried to sleep during the day.

I am pretty sure this sort of May Day celebration is a thing of the past. Mothers have jobs and are no longer around to answer the door. Children rarely move beyond their yards without a parental escort. Amateur crafts have become major projects involving military-like strategic planning and trips to Hobby Lobby for professional-grade supplies. In my memory, May Day was simple. Paper, crayons, scissors, and string. And, most importantly, it was a day of kindness. Neighborly love extended and accepted in a sweet springtime ritual.

Happy May Day to all of you. May your day be full of special surprises.

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