Thursday, April 30, 2009

May Baskets, Markie, and Me OR It's Never a Good Idea to Jump Out of the Second Story Window

We had lovely celebrations on May Day during my childhood. On May 1 each year, we would make May Baskets for our friends. May Baskets usually were decorated cupcake papers, or perhaps something stronger, with a handle made out of twisted pipe cleaners. Into these little baskets went a variety of small candies, maybe a posy of flowers, and a name tag.

The really special thing about May Baskets stemmed from the stealth and secrecy of planting them on
someone's front doorstep, ringing the bell, then slipping away without being caught. I remember making the baskets of treats up with my mother's assistance. (Okay, she did most of the work and I probably just got in her way, but I was little and doing my best.)

We would fill up a 13x9 cake pan with the May Baskets and take off around the neighborhood to drop them off. Maybe the mothers coordinated their timing, but I don't ever remember running into anyone else while delivering my May Baskets. Nevertheless, I always got May Baskets in return.

One year, when I was five or six, my neighborhood
Markie Hall (a year younger than me) gave me a wonderful May Basket that I still have all these years later. It is about four inches tall, with a handle that rises another three or four inches above the basket. The basket had a paper doily as a liner and I'm sure it was filled with candy, but the little woven basket in and of itself made me so happy that I don't remember much more about it.

Markie's parents owned a flower shop and perhaps the wicker basket was just a run-of-the-mill item to them. Or maybe not. I have no idea if anyone else got such a lovely little basket and it would probably have been a topic of conversation among the preschool set, so he might have had "special feelings" for me.

I know we played together a lot. He had no siblings and no prospects of any, being the only child of a middle-aged couple who had not been able to have other children.

Aside: I knew this by eavesdropping on my mother's bridge club and at various other womanly get-
togethers. A favorite trick of mine was to sit under the card table - which had a very proper, long tablecloth on it - and dig around in the ladies' purses while enjoying their conversations above me. This lasted until the day I applied a lipstick I found under the table in someone's purse to my own face, without a mirror, and then reappeared among the ladies looking like a clown. Please remember, we're talking preschool here!!

I, on the other hand, had way too many siblings for my own good, namely three big brothers who picked on me and made my life miserable most of the time. Someday I'll tell you about the candy rocks that weren't candy or brushing my teeth with
Brylcream before I learned to read. (Which may be why I became an early reader.) Be that as it may, Markie and I found each other and played happily together even though he was a boy.

One summer afternoon when I was six,
Markie and I ended up in the boys' room upstairs. The boys' room consisted of a raised attic with a dormitory-like sleeping area, a large study area, and a small bathroom. My dad had built it when he and my mother moved in to their new, two-bedroom bungalow with three children and one on the way. I can't remember why Markie and I had headed upstairs. It got hot up there in the summer and my brothers would probably not have been very happy to find out we had been playing in their territory. Maybe that was the appeal.

But there we were -
Markie, me, and a window overlooking our side yard. Naturally, we got the bright idea to play "parachute." I don't recall ever playing parachute before then, or hearing of anyone playing parachute. I don't recall if it was my idea or Markie's or just the devil taking the opportunity to screw with a couple of kids. But we did get the idea that it would be fun to make a parachute and jump out of the second floor window of my house.

How do you make a parachute when you are five- and six-years-old respectively? Why, you use the boy's tee-shirt, of course!
Markie took off his shirt, climbed up onto the window ledge, held the tee-shirt over his head, and jumped. The moment his feet left the window sill, I knew with utter and absolute clarity that it had not been such a good idea. I knew it so clearly that I didn't even watch the results, I simply turned away and found a hiding place behind my brothers' dresser.

It felt like I stayed hidden for a very long time. I figured
Markie had died, I would follow shortly, and there was no reason to rush things by giving myself up; however, when my mother came to the foot of the stairs and called me, I went to her as meekly as a lamb to the slaughter.

Surprisingly, I didn't get into trouble. When I asked my mother years later how I escaped punishment that day, she told me that I looked so terrified when I came downstairs, she didn't think spanking me was necessary.

Markie did not die. He didn't even break anything. He may not even have gotten grass stains on his clothes. He did have the wind knocked out of him, which actually feels awful, as I discovered myself about thirty years later. And he earned absolutely stellar bragging rights. No one, I mean not even the biggest lunkhead boy on the block, had ever jumped out of a second story window on purpose!

I can't remember if we played together after that. I'm thinking that if his mother had anything to say about it,
Markie shifted his attentions to safer playmates, like my older brothers. And, thinking that, I'm also now pretty sure I got the wicker basket from him when I was five ...

Happy May Day one and all!!


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