How Joe Somebody Met Pretty Girl

Of the many wondrous mysteries of my childhood, one survived until I became an adult. Every year on the night of April 30th, someone rang our doorbell and disappeared, leaving behind a gift of four small fudge sundaes from Dairy Queen on our doorstep, one for each of the children in our family.

That's my kind of May basket!    photo credit: Mr.TinDC via photopin cc
That’s my kind of May basket! photo credit: Mr.TinDC via photopin cc

Often this happened shortly after we arrived back at home from our neighborhood May basket deliveries. I know, I know, that’s a quaint little tradition that nobody follows anymore, maybe even fewer people today than when I was growing up in the 1980’s, except that at my house we did. Up and down our block we placed a spring flower on each doorstep, planted in a little basket, usually made from a paper cup decorated with childish scrawl.

Most of the time, we left the gifts to be discovered in the morning, on May Day itself, but with some of the younger neighbors, the ones with kids our age, we would ring the doorbell and run like crazy to hide in the bushes or jump into the car with Mom at the wheel and the motor running (in another, less scrupulous, lifetime she might have made a good bank robber).

It wasn’t a huge secret that our family was behind the May baskets, but it was a great game for the neighborhood kids to try to catch us at it. And we were no better. I remember one year, one of my brothers (I won’t reveal which one because their children sometimes read this blog and it would be more fun to have them ask their dads), deciding he was going to wait out the fudge sundae bandit, dressed in head-to-toe black ninja garb and climbed the tree in the front yard to watch.

He successfully delayed the arrival of the sundaes (much to the dismay of the rest of us), but still they came. And my ninja brother didn’t see a thing.

The stealthiest and most efficient flower delivery service ever.    photo credit: JennyCide/grom via photopin cc
The stealthiest and most efficient flower delivery service ever. photo credit: JennyCide/grom via photopin cc

The May basket and the tradition of celebrating May Day has a messy history, not the kind of thing I usually like to write about. I’d love to be able to tell you about Joe Somebody winning the love of his fair maiden Pretty Girl by getting caught delivering a basket of flowers to her doorstep on May 1 of 472. This of course would have led to her kissing him and a happily-ever-after that their ancestors have been celebrating ever since. I guess that could have happened, but since no one thought to include that story on the Internet (until now), it’s forever lost to us.

What I can share with you is that May 1 has been observed for thousands of years, first as one of four seasonal Pagan holidays, symbolizing the beginning of summer and celebrated with purifying fire. Later the Romans got hold of the holiday and transformed it into a festival honoring Flora, the goddess of flowers. And there was a time when every English village had a Maypole to celebrate spring and welcome summer.

A May Day tradition that has nothing whatsoever to do with fudge sundaes. I don't get it.    photo credit: Liz Castro via photopin cc
A May Day tradition that has nothing whatsoever to do with fudge sundaes. I don’t get it. photo credit: Liz Castro via photopin cc

Not surprisingly, Puritan settlers in America didn’t care for the holiday and to this day it has never been widely observed in the United States. But there are pockets (like my childhood home) where the spring is marked by the sharing of a small gift with friends and neighbors and you might even find the odd festival that has children dancing around a maypole (which I’ve never done) and electing a May queen (which, alas, I’ve never been).

I’m delighted that my children enjoy the tradition now, too. But then what kid wouldn’t want to dress like a ninja and ding-dong-ditch the neighbors for a good cause? And it turns out we have a fudge sundae bandit in our neighborhood, too.

A fun, but messy tradition.
If only someone would sneak in and clean up the mess.

I did finally learn who was responsible for the annual sundae delivery of my childhood and it wasn’t the elderly neighbors down the street that for some reason I was always convinced were responsible. My mom let me in on her big secret a few years ago (sometimes even good bank robbers crack). In retrospect, I probably should have figured it out myself. But then childhood really should include a few good mysteries.


Sarah Angleton Officially Pulls Out of the Race

This post was supposed to be about vampires. I know what you are thinking and yes, you’re right, that would be fun to read about. I’ll get back to them. But for now, I want to talk to you about an even more pressing public safety issue. Obviously I have the authority to do this because I turn 35 in October, making me eligible to be a write-in candidate for US president this November (please don’t vote for me).

For my first action in my new position of authority, I am declaring the official “Don’t let Your Kid Fall out of a Window Day.” Apparently this is an epidemic, which, I am hoping, a lot of you may have already known. I didn’t. Until my kid fell out of his second-story bedroom window a couple of days ago (seriously, don’t vote for me).

On what will live in my memory as one of the scariest afternoons in my life, my youngest son (soon to be 5) went up to his bedroom to play while I remained downstairs with his brother, debriefing from the school day. E and I were talking, thinking about snacks, unloading his backpack, etc. Then J screamed. This in itself is not necessarily heart-stopping (or at least it wasn’t) since he screams all the time and most often for no reason at all. But there was something more urgent in this scream and I ran to find him, which I couldn’t right away because, unbeknownst to me, he was no longer in the house.

The windows (including his) were open to allow a cool breeze to blow through the house and I finally (really probably only a few seconds later, but the space of time keeps growing in my mind) put it together that he was outside. Surprising, as I had still assumed he was inside, but still not yet particularly alarming until (in pretty much the same moment in my memory): I saw him lying on the bark dust under the tree that sits beneath his bedroom window, I registered that a bent-up window screen lay crumpled next to him, and our sixteen-year-old neighbor boy from across the street arrived at a sprint and declared that he’d seen J fall out of the window. At that point I said some words that I am not proud of saying in front of my sixteen-year-old neighbor (or my 4-year-old son) and my heart stopped.

Thankfully, mommy adrenaline kicked in and I knelt next to my son to try to calm him and prevent him from moving while more neighborly help arrived (I seriously live around some of the best people in the world). I’m not sure how long the emergency response time was, but as I can only measure it in moments spent trying to prevent a distressed, normally active child from moving, I’m guessing it was around 4 milliseconds (I seriously live near some of the best emergency personnel in the world).

The next few hours are something of a blur. Superneighbor offered to take E. I hopped into the ambulance with my back-boarded little one (talk about a frightening sight). My husband met us at the hospital (thanks to a phone call from Superneighbor) and after lots of X-rays and an ultrasound, the doctors determined that my son sustained only a minor fracture in one arm and a scrape/bruise on one cheek. We headed home that night a few minutes before ten (just barely in time to grab some Subway because none of us had eaten and that is little J’s favorite), about six hours after the original accident. Rumor has it that six hours from injury to release is pretty good for a trauma in the ER and I certainly can’t complain. I would have happily stayed a lot longer for a (mostly) clean bill of health.

And I have to say I am so proud of my boys who were both so brave and patient through the whole process. I’m a little proud of me, too. I managed to hold it together pretty well. When we finally got home, I looked up at the window from which my little boy had fallen and I cried. When I closed my eyes to try to sleep that night, I kept seeing the image of his little body on the bark dust. Eventually I had to sleep in the same room with him because I needed to know that if I opened my eyes, I would be able to see him safe in bed.

In fact the only reason I can be light-hearted about this event at all is because everything worked out okay. I don’t allow myself to think about what could have happened, but you parents out there go ahead and let your minds wander if it helps convince you to take care of your upstairs windows. Join me in celebrating “Don’t Let Your Kid Fall Out of a Window Day” by heading to the hardware store and loading up on the stuff you need to keep your kiddos safe. How about we make it this Saturday (June 16th)? Though feel free to celebrate early if you have to work that day. Here’s a helpful link:

Thank you for sticking with me for a more serious post. Don’t worry, the vampires are coming. On second thought, maybe that should make you worry. This is exactly why you shouldn’t vote for me for president. I have no proper sense of priorities. I do have it on pretty good authority that our most beloved presidents spent a great deal of energy addressing the serious problems presented by American vampires. But that’s a topic for another day…