When we both were children and in grammar school, the month of May was truly a month of fun and enjoyment for most every family. Even when our son, Robert, was going to grammar school, the month of May was full of art programs, like making a maypole for their dance program around the time of 1978.
We recall after a long cold winter and the cold rain of March and April, May brought forth warm weather and beautiful flowers of many colors.
I recall when I was going to Franklin Grammar School and in Mrs. Marion Smithwick’s class. She had grades one through four. She would get us children involved in her art class, with the project of making May baskets of many colors. She would provide us with a special type of paper that would stretch and came in many colors. It was called crepe paper. She would also provide us with bottles of glue and heavy cardstock in different colors, which she taught us to cut in one-inch strips, which we wove together to make the basket body and the handle.
Mrs. Smithwick had a heart of gold and showed a great deal of passion while she was giving hands-on instruction to each of her students. Mrs. Smithwick knew how much these little May baskets meant to each of her students, for they were a gift to their mothers.
So you can see she wanted to make sure each little May basket was well-decorated and lined inside to hold all the candy.
At the same time, we were making our own May baskets at our homes with the help of our parents. These little May baskets were also very special to our family. These baskets were to be given to our cousins, aunts, and grandmothers, and real close friends of our parents. One can see a lot of tender love and care as well as time was spent making these May baskets, and my mother would spend a number of hours making different kinds of fudge to put in them as a gift.
It was so much fun when we would go with our parents to hang these May baskets as a special gift from all of us. When we placed the basket on the doorstep and rang the doorbell, many of our younger aunts and cousins would come out and run after us. If they caught us, they would give us a big hug. We can honestly say many of our friends looked forward each May to receiving a special May basket from our family. Everyone loved my mother’s peanut butter fudge, her penuche fudge, her chocolate marshmallow fudge, and especially her divinity fudge. She also made a great candy Needham.
Most people in our area would hang May baskets through the whole month of May. These were family traditions that were passed down through the years.
This art class of Mrs. Smithwick bonded this group together. I recall each child would often help another schoolmate complete their May basket. When I see one of these classmates, we often bring up the conversation of making May baskets and how much fun we had doing it, and how it bonded our small class together for many years. We often say no one was left out of this art project and we were often left with loving memories and big smiles of happiness toward one another and all the satisfaction we all got out of the art class.
I recall going with my mother to three different homes in the area where there were some women in their middle or late 80s. These women were conjoined to their homes and unable to travel. I took a May basket full of my mother’s homemade fudge and presented each one with a May basket. I can still recall the beautiful smiles and the sparkle in these ladies’ eyes when I passed them the May basket. Quite often, these ladies would start to reminisce about the old days when they were younger girls and they would make May baskets and go out to hang them for a special person or a schoolmate.
I was always interested in hearing old-time stories of local people in our area and what they did for entertainment as a child or as a family group when they were young.
I have to thank the Lord I was always a good listener and often wrote these stories in a small pocket notebook. My mother was a good person and she always taught me to do good to others. One of the older women told how her parents would hook up the horse-and-carriage and take her and her three sisters and their May baskets to an early-evening church service. They would hang their May baskets for other children of their ages before the church meeting began. These were such wonderful memories of the past she explained as she was still holding my May basket in her lap.
I can still recall the time when my parents took us up to my aunt’s home in Pittston. Her name was Stella A. Dodge Alcott. She graduated from Lincoln Academy in the Class of 1932. She was always full of fun and it was always fun to visit their home. When I hung her a May basket, I found out one thing: she could run faster than I could and she caught me and gave me a big hug for the May basket.
Later that evening, she served us all a large slice of angel cake with white butter frosting and ice cream. This was always my favorite dessert. I also hung a May basket for her daughter, Patricia, who was my closest cousin, and we both were born in May, one year apart.