Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Happy May Day!

I didn't want to let the first of May go by without wishing you all a happy day (and month!). I also wanted to share an essay from my favorite nature writer, Hal Borland, to commemorate the holiday.

May 1st
May Baskets
"Do youngsters anywhere still hang May baskets, or has May Day become wholly a date of social significance?
There was a time when May Day meant sentiment. It was preceded by a busy week when young fingers were weaving baskets and small cornucopias out of colored paper. Between spells of basket-making, scouting expeditions were made to the woods and fields, to see how the season went with wild flowers. And at least one trip was made to the candy store.
On April's last day, as late as possible, the scouting expeditions were followed up. Purple violets, preferably those big, dark, long-stemmed ones which grow at the edge of the swamp, were picked. Dogtooth violets were gathered. And windflowers, if any were to be found. Spring beauties were sought, and Dutchman's breeches. And the most delicate of young fern fronds were gathered for garnish. All were carried home in the dusk and stowed carefully in cups and glasses of water.
May Day morning called for early rising. In the bottom of the basket or cornucopia were put a few jelly beans left over from Easter, a few gumdrops, and at least one heart-shaped wafer candy printed with coy words of affection. Then the flowers were added till the basket brimmed with beauty. And at last, before breakfast if possible, the trip was made to Her house, where the basket was hung on the doorknob. The bell was rung and the basketeer ran like mad, to hide around the corner until She came and found the tribute.
That was May Day, in the morning, when there was sentiment in the date. The candy might be cheap, the flowers somewhat wilted; but the sentiment was real. What ever happened to it, anyway?"
Hal Borland
"Sundial of the Seasons"
May 1949

I remember having a Maypole and some kind of "May Queen" thing at school when I was a young girl, but I haven't heard any mention of such things in many, many years. I would love to revive the old custom of leaving little posies for the neighbors on their doorsteps, though. Well, maybe not for Crazy Neighbor but the others I've met have been nice. Especially the sweet 80 year old lady who lives next door--I like her a lot. Maybe next year I'll remember and buy her a little bouquet of daisies to leave on her steps.

We're doing okay here. Gregg isn't hurting quite as much and he got the pain medicine he needs just in case. He goes for a stress test (for his heart) on Friday and then he has some more tests later this month. Hopefully we'll get to the bottom of things and get it all resolved.

Going back to work after spring break wasn't too painful. It really helps to like your job, not to mention the fact that summer break is only 25 (school) days away. This morning the principal called out from his office, "Mrs. Barlow, can you come in here, please?" and when I went it he looked grim and told me to shut the door and sit down. I felt dread creeping all over me and braced myself for whatever was coming. Then he smiled broadly and told me that classified district employees get an evaluation every two years, and he had just completed my first one. He rated me as "Exemplary" in all categories, which was the highest rating, and wrote some really nice comments at the end. I nearly cried--evaluations were always traumatic at my old job. Not only were they often very unfair, but they were always slightly demeaning. (It was that way for all the employees, the company made a practice of never giving very positive reviews in an effort to keep the yearly raises small). It's so nice to work in a place where you feel valued! I told Mr. Oates that I love my job, and he replied, "We love having you here." Wasn't that nice of him? :)

Anyway, it's been a pretty good first of May. How has yours been? Did you give anyone flowers, dance around a Maypole, or somehow mark the occasion? I hope everyone has had a good one!


  1. I never did as a kid what was described above. since I went to a catholic school, there was a "may queen". I never got picked.

    good news for glenn! and isn't it nice to be considered a valued worthy intelligent member of a team at work?

  2. I hope Gregg doesn't have any more pain and he's on the mend. Glad your evaluation went well. Working at a place where you feel appreciated makes all of the difference in the world.

  3. What a great feeling for you to get such a high evaluation and for him to say they love having you there. Job evaluations can be stressful. When I was a child for a couple years my sister and I made May Day bouquets for a few neighbors and made a paper doily cone for the flowers and hung them on front door knobs. A nice tradition.

  4. Here in France we give sprigs of Lily of the Valley to friends and family. I'm not sure of the origin of the tradition. In Paris, anyone can set-up a stall on May 1st to sell Lily of the Valley.

  5. A beautiful and informative personal essay, Jennifer. Thanks, and happy May Day!

  6. I remember reading about the May Day posy made of a paper doily in school but we really didn't have that tradition.
    I would love to have a Lily of the Valley sprig given to me, like Cro said.

    cheers, parsnip

  7. Oh, that is all so very good and coming at just the right time for you, after what has been a rather tough time both at home and at work. I am so happy to read this, Jennifer!
    Here in the village, we have been busy for 3 days now with the village fete for the 1st of May. We attended the setting up,of the Maypole, helped with setting up the beer tent, benches, tables, counters etc., played music for two days straight (OK plays the trumpet in the village band) and worked at the food counter in the beer tent (me). It was all hard work but also fun; so completely different from what my everyday life is like.

  8. being welsh the bigger celebration is March 1 st and not May
    march 1st is st Davids Day ( welsh saint!!!)

  9. I do t remember May Day being observed or celebrated when I was a kid on Long Island And then Brooklyn. I don’t know if it was and I just don’t remember... or if we skipped over it. Jerry has memories of May baskets, May poles, and all those traditions in South Dakota.

  10. It's funny. When I was a little girl I always got up early and went out and picked flowers for my mother whose birthday fell on May 1. I have no idea how I came up with that idea. But that's what I did. And my youngest child was born on May first so it is a very, very special day to me.
    So glad to hear that Gregg is feeling better.
    And your evaluation? Oh, honey. That's simply the best! They see what you do and they appreciate you and they honor you. What could be better?

  11. Not a big fan of stress tests. I had one once and they shaved spots of hair off my chest. They didn't tell me to take sneakers and I was running on a treadmill in business shoes. Hope things turn out for the best.

  12. I could have sworn I commented on this post but I guess I didn't! I must say, I don't identify with any of the activities Hal Borland describes. I've never heard of making cornucopias for May Day. I did learn in French class that in France it's called "La Fete du Muguet," or lily-of-the-valley day, because the lilies are in bloom then and you're supposed to give your loved one a bouquet of them. Kind of similar, I suppose.

    I did go to a maypole gathering with other bloggers way back in 2008:

    Seems like a REALLY long time ago!

    I'm glad Gregg isn't hurting as much and I hope the stress test went well. It will be good to get to the bottom of that situation.