I’m surprised my kids’ names didn’t end up in the police blotter.
“What are you doing?” one neighbor asked Wednesday afternoon as they snuck through her backyard from behind another’s garage, in hopes of making it to her front door undetected.
“Um, giving you a May basket?” Noah replied, wincing, I’m sure.
And I’m sure he wasn’t the only one who winced. He’s nearly 15. He shaves. He’s gotten huge. I’m lucky he wasn’t shot.
Another neighbor, a few doors down, also received quite a fright as she rounded the corner of her house and spotted Noah perched, frozen, atop her fence, a pink construction-paper basket filled with flowers and treats dangling from one hand.
A simple “ding-dong-ditch” would have done.
When I floated the May basket idea past him two hours before, he shrugged noncommittally, until I reminded him that anonymous deliveries would be involved. (I later learned that, according to tradition, if the basket recipient “catches” the fleeing giver, a kiss is exchanged. I think I’ll keep that little detail to myself.)
Little did I know how seriously Noah would take it. He and Holly put their heads together, expressions like “Here’s our plan of attack,” and “We’re moving in,” were uttered, and off they went.
I watched from my dining-room window as he made his first delivery to our next-door-neighbor. He hung the basket on her front door (while Holly stood watch a few feet away), rang the bell and leapt over her porch railing into the bushes. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Who left this?” she asked, gamely, when she and her little boy discovered the basket as my kids sprinted back to our house.
When we realized that the mom across the street and her two young children had seen the whole thing, we quickly made their basket, tossing in a few dog biscuits for Steve, their black lab. But before my kids could make the “drop,” hers left beautiful white flowers from their garden at our back door! And they smell lovely. The flowers we stuck in our baskets, however pretty, do not. (Wax flowers and Caspian, I’m told they’re called.)
“Why’d you get them if they smelled so bad, Mommy?” Holly asked, as we assembled more baskets. Why, indeed?
I remembered only Wednesday morning, after the kids left for school, that it was already May Day (May 1), and that she and I had considered doing May baskets. Nothing was blooming in my yard except dandelions, so I made a quick stop at a flower shop before the kids returned. Everything smells good when you’re in a flower shop.
“How do you make them?” Noah asked, when Holly and I first sat down at the dining room table to consider the heap of construction paper, ribbon, candy and flowers we’d amassed.
“I’m not exactly sure. It’s been a while,” I replied, as Holly and I began experimenting with the paper. Noah contributed by testing the candy and by Googling “how to” on his phone while I recalled the first time we ever made May baskets.
The kids were just 3 and 5, and all I could find to make them with, in a pinch, was a spare roll of pretty wallpaper left behind by our home’s previous owner. It was easily formed into sturdy cone shapes, which we filled with treats and flowers and finished with ribbon handles.
They were a hit with our friends and neighbors but the novelty expired for us the following year when, faced with the prospect of selling our 80-year-old house and needing to patch a fresh tear in the foyer wallpaper, I realized that I should have hung onto that roll of paper. The pattern had apparently been discontinued, so stripping, wall patching, and a funky, time-consuming painting project ensued. It wasn’t pretty.
But those baskets sure were!
The ones Holly and I managed to make this year didn’t turn out so badly, either.
When she missed the bus to school Thursday morning because we decided to make one more basket (it’s hard to stop once you think of someone else who might enjoy one – so what if it was already May 2), we drove past another neighbor’s house and spotted her basket still dangling near the door. I suggested we stop so she could move it.
“No, you do it,” Holly replied.
“Nah, it’s more of a kid-thing,” I tried.
That didn’t fly.
“You always say you’re a 12-year-old in a mother’s body, so yes, you can do it,” Holly quipped, but I never did.
It rained. I felt guilty but it was thundering, so I emailed the neighbor in question, instead. It seems that Mary-Janes, the old-timey candy we’d stuck in her basket, is “one of my childhood favorites,” she reported. “I haven’t had one in many a year!”
It turns out, too, that she’d never before received a May basket. So glad we righted that wrong.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.