Tuesday, April 26, 2011

MAY DAY: “Run! Catch‘em and Give‘em A Kiss!”

MAY DAY: “Run! Catch‘em and Give‘em A Kiss!”
Copyright 2011 by Lori-Ann Willey

A tradition for many hundreds of years, May Day Baskets are popular among children and meant to demonstrate the joy of gift giving.

The history of May Day dates back to pre-Christian Europe as a tribute to Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. Flower-centric festivals are customary still today. Often popular among children, the first day of May has slowly evolved into a celebration of giving, once referred to as “bringing in the May.”

The tradition of May Day begins with a basket or container brimming with flowers and small gifts. The May Day basket is quietly and secretly placed on the doorstep of a neighbor or loved one, demonstrating the gift of giving without receiving.

One May 1st morning when I was at the age of about 10 or 11, my two sisters and I were busy in the living room when our mother called for us to come quickly into the kitchen. She had us open the front door. Upon opening, we saw a large mound of candy bars staring back at us. It was then she told us that it was May 1st, and as I looked out the window, I could see our cousin Rodney and our family friend, Steve running up the hill away from the house. Confused, I stood listening to my mom explain to us what was happening ...what May Day was about…kinda, sorta.

She told us that long ago when boys wanted girls to be their girlfriends they would place a basket of flowers on the doorstep of the girl’s house, knock on the door, and then,  run away. The object was for the girls to chase after them, catch them, and give them a kiss in acceptance. I remember so vividly that I scrunched up my nose in disgust. Who wanted to kiss their older cousin and even older family friend? It did not take long before I realized that was not the case at all, but it was for fun, a mere game, a family kind of love, nothing more. Phew! By now the guys were up over the hill and still running.

Rodney, being younger of the two and in good rugged shape cut though the field-like yard and ran alongside the road for little ways before he joined the very deeply rutted dirt road. I remember thinking, ‘That would be the path I would run, too!’ The tall dead hay grass had been lain down by the weight of the winter snow, but the new growth underneath it was pushing the deadness into loosely formed heaps that quickly and easily caught the feet when ran across. Running that route, one had to pick their feet up rather high as they ran to avoid tripping, and in this case, avoid being caught. Rodney did so successfully as far as I know.

Steve, being older and quite heavy also cut across the yard, but from there, I don’t know where he joined up onto the road, but I’m sure it must’ve been shortly after the cut grassy area if not somewhere before. Mom excitedly yelled, “Run! Catch’em and give’em a kiss!” and that was all we needed to hear before we were off and running out the door. I recall following the path that Rodney took.

Up over the hill I ran, and as I jumped over the Paper White Narcissus clusters my grandmother had planted decades before, I was surprised, but not shocked to see that Steve was not too far ahead.  However, Rodney was way down in the low spot and was crossing over the culvert. He would have to wait; we would get to Steve first. As we approached him, he had deemed running a senseless act but still continued to walk away. By the time we reached him, he turned to us and grinned from ear to ear as he wiped a little blood from his nose. We felt bad that running from us caused his nosebleed, but all he did was grin even bigger and excitedly told us to, “Go catch Rodney!” At a quick glance back, Steve had already turned and was now headed back up toward the house with his hand to his face. If I remember right, our little sister, Katrina stopped and walked back with him, but I cannot be sure of this. I just know that I do not remember her running up the road after Rodney with me and my twin sister, Lora-Jean.

I do not ever remember catching Rodney, but I do remember him standing in the road on the upslope near “The Gile's”.  He turned toward us, hands on his hips as he watched us advance. Eventually, we all made our way back to the house where we relished in the thought of all those candy bars. I think there were at least a couple different kinds, with one being Almond Joy, because I remembered I had never had them before and didn’t know if I liked them or not, so I ate the other ones first. Come to find out, I did like them!

My parents thought the world of both Rodney and Steve and they kept commenting on how much those boxes of candy bars must have cost them. I remember Dad saying something like, ‘It must’ve cost them $30.00’, which back in 1978 was quite a bit of money to spend on candy. My parents beamed as much as we girls did at the thought and love that went behind such heartfelt thing those two did for us girls that day.

To this day, I reflect upon that May Day quite often and quite fondly.  Like those Paper White Narcissus, that May Day is forever embedded in my heart and mind, and one of those favorable memories that I will always cherish! Steve has since passed away, but occasionally Rodney and I will talk about that May Day and how much it meant to us both. Thanks Rodney for a GREAT memory!

For years, I tried to find paper white narcissus bulbs to plant, but I never could.  Traveling with Paul in the Army,  The closest flower I could find was the wild white daisy.  Because they are easily found country wide, they became my favorite replacement flower. 

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