Tuesday, May 01, 2007

sweetness

On this day commemorating Mr. Bush's announcement four years ago of "mission accomplished" in Iraq, I'm feeling a little not sweet. But it is, after all, May Day, the day when we are supposed to focus on the beauty of the world and everything in it, to take a run around the Maypole, to deliver flowers in secret to unsuspecting folks.

As a bitty girl, my sister and I would gather flowers the night before, then we'd wrap the stems in moist paper towels surrounded by waxed paper (does anyone even use waxed paper anymore? is it sold any longer?). We would fit these inside of paper doilies stapled to make a triangle-shaped basket, then a ribbon for the top. After dark we'd creep about the neighborhood leaving our small lacy baskets of flowers on doorknobs of people we especially liked.

The bubbly extrovert Dot Cowan got one every year. Mrs. Partridge, she of the chocolate candy cigarettes, used to get one but after she accused me of letting her parakeet out of its cage (it was Tammy Albright, the wench), no flowers for her. Cranky Mrs. Barnes got a flower basket in hopes of cheering her up, poor thing married to the dour Ed.

It was the Clarkes, though, who got the best basket of all every year. An elderly couple two doors down, the Clarkes maintained a back yard garden which still inspires my own efforts. It was a lush green and floral sanctuary with paths and arbors and overhanging trees. Their garden was a part of our "cat prowl," discussed in another entry in another blog:

My nighttime skulking began at the tender age of six, when my sister and I developed something we called the "cat prowl." To complete the prowl, which fast became a popular activity among our parochial school set, it was required that we sneak out the bedroom window late at night, scamper to the street then follow a route which took us past the back windows and through the gardens of a dozen of our neighbors. We were, essentially, school-age window peepers. We threw in a little moonlight dancing, a little fantasy among the hollyhocks and roses, but our greatest thrill was viewing our neighbors through their windows when they believed themselves unobserved.

Those magnificent hollyhocks and roses resided in the Clarkes' back garden and those are still two of my favorite flowers. We loved the Clarkes for their kindness and generosity and for their unknowing provision of a nighttime secret garden which affects me still. We always managed to be nearby when they claimed their morning prize on the 1st of May. Their beautiful, old, wrinkled faces would light up and in so doing, would fill our hearts with affection for these kind souls.

April flowers for May baskets. Such a sweet tradition. So long gone, as are so many sweet traditions. I wanted to write something sweet to counteract my sadness but this seems to have just made me sad in a different way. Is that part of becoming an old fuck? Thinking things were a little sweeter back in the day?

13 Comments:

Blogger evilganome said...

You'll be happy to know that I for one still use waxed paper. Lining cake pans, cookie sheets, etc. and occasionally wrapping food. You brought back a childhood memory for me, of being taught how to wrap up lunch for our lunch bags, sandwiches, cake, cookies. They all required a different folding pattern. I haven't thought of this in years. We used toothpicks to keep the paper off the icing of the cake. Happy May Day! In a way, you have left a May basket for your readers.

May 01, 2007 3:40 PM  
Blogger David said...

I use waxed paper for rolling out dough when I am baking, and it is the preferred material to reheat things in the microwave. I always keep a box in the kitchen.

Plus they are great for those fake stained-glass window projects you did as a kid - ironing crayons between two sheets of waxed paper. Remember?

May 01, 2007 3:43 PM  
Blogger Lynette said...

i am, in fact, DELIGHTED to know that you two darlings still used waxed paper. the world's going to hell in a handbasket but for the gays. smooches.

May 01, 2007 5:15 PM  
Blogger Livvy U. said...

That's very beautiful, that post, and the image of you as children with the flowers left on people's doorknobs. That's reminded me of May, of where we are in the natural year (so much of the rest, as you say, is often so unnatural)
Livvy

May 01, 2007 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Tater said...

Count a third gay in your wax paper poll! I love it for baking. Like David said, it makes rolling dough a breeze. I also use it when I am covering leaves with chocolate for use in decorating cakes, and for wrapping popcorn balls. Nothing sticks to it.

Loved your post, and yet another parallel to be found there. My sister and I used to have a secret knock, which when answered, meant we were sneaking out our windows to run the neighborhood at night. We never called it by the same name, but we did the same things. Thank you so much for bringing those happy memories back to me on May day. You are truly a jewel.

May 01, 2007 8:14 PM  
Blogger here today, gone tomorrow said...

Straight girl here...still using the wax paper! Your post is filled with sweet melancholy. From a sister childhood "cat prowler".

May 01, 2007 8:46 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I love that you recall the charming tradition of "going a-Maying" and as an ex-florist I can totally appreciate it. As for things being "sweeter back in the day," who was president back then? Whoever it was HAD to be better than Dubya!

May 02, 2007 7:31 AM  
Blogger Willym said...

Big roll of waxed paper in my kitchen cupboard - rolling dough, lining pie crusts (discovered early on that those pie weights embed themselves in the dough), buttered it makes a great cover when poaching chicken etc.

Sorry Lady but the melancholy comes with age. I find now that something will trigger a memory - more often than not a good one and the tears well up. Now to counteract the sweetness of May 1st, what trick did you play on those same neighbours at All Hallows?

Willym

May 02, 2007 10:38 AM  
Blogger Red7Eric said...

This is the second post I've read about the May Day tradition, and it's something I never, ever heard of before. But what a great, fantastic thing.

Speaking of maypoles -- my boss's daughter goes to Bryn Mawr, and apparently May Day is a very big deal there. They do a dance around a great big real live maypole every year ... but a few years ago, decided that the maypole was a tad too phallic, and so paired it with another contraption with the same basic concept (everyone grabs a ribbon and does a dance that results in a lovely woven effect) but more, well ... "vaginal" in appearance. That cracked me up.

May 02, 2007 12:16 PM  
Blogger Willym said...

red7eric - the mind boggles at what a "vaginal-looking" maypole would be.... anyone got any ideas?

May 02, 2007 4:15 PM  
Blogger rodger said...

It looks as though all the gays still love the wax paper. Besides baking, I still wrap my sandwiches in it for work. If some mayo ends up on the paper it can be wiped off and reused. Much more practical and environmentally sound than plastic bags.

This was beautiful and reminded me of making May Day baskets as a child. Since my mother wasn't much of a gardener, my sister and I would steal the flowers, taking special care not to give the original owners their own flowers back.

May 02, 2007 6:44 PM  
Anonymous lynette said...

i adore you all, my sweet waxed-paper-using guys.

May 02, 2007 7:46 PM  
Blogger Willym said...

and besides if you save it after you've had your sandwich at work you can use it again. How bloody enviro-friendly is that!

May 02, 2007 9:47 PM  

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