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Days of our lives (04/30/2006)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Our lives aren't quite as predictably ridiculous as soap operas. Consequences aren't dictated by a script and, though one may be influenced and pressured by others, there is no production "director" to fabricate our next move.

On a morning visit recently, our granddaughter Ally, five, asked me, "What makes your day, Grandma?" She cocked her blonde head and flashed that sparkling smile at me. My responses were all wrong, until I realized what she was getting at.

"When my girls stop over," I said as my face lit up. "Right!" (She's always checking me out.) I thought, how true that is. Years back it may have been quite the opposite, like, "a day to myself without the kids!" or "having another poem published," or "Mother having one of her good days."

Through days of our lives we are buffeted toward a serene horizon, so many notes in drifting bottles which never seem to reach their destinations. Caring for my mom during terminal pancreatic cancer, in the 70s, was the most impacting experience of my life. We formed a bond through uninhibited communication, often without words.

On a cheery note, as May 1st bobs its grassy, blooming head, a pleasant childhood memory comes to mind. On May Day, even for little kids there was something like "LOVE" in heady spring air. On kitchen tables and grade school desks there appeared colored paper, scissors, along with paper cups and lace doilies, glue, pipe cleaners for handles, and crayons.

Mary and I were to fetch lily of the valley from the north side of our house. Mother wrapped the stems of small bouquets in water soaked tissue, to be placed in the cups we had decorated along with small candies and gum.

Excitement swelled as the "May baskets" were rushed to friends around town. As screen doors slammed shut after a sneaky delivery, the recipients ran to catch the gift-givers for pecks on the cheek. (No one tried very hard to get away.) Mothers peeked from behind kitchen curtains. Girls giggled. Boys hid.

Neighborhoods, as it was back then, were regularly alive with children riding bikes, lollygagging, and noisily playing softball and other friendly games, when winning and loosing didn't much matter. Scrapes and bruises were souvenirs of kids being kids.

More than ever, we're people of celebrations and busy calendar schedules. The holidays we continue to recognize each have histories. May 1st, for instance, didn't begin with innocent baskets of candy, posies, and breezy kisses.

Rituals were downright scandalous during the 14th century. "Maying" symbolized the season of rebirth, also the regeneration of the human species. Young people arose early, frolicking into the woods to gather garlands of flowers and greenery to decorate doors and windows.

The Hawthorn tree, a scrubby shrub with menacing thorns, was believed to possess supernatural powers, blooming with white flowers around the first of May. People would circle it to conjure up good fortune, believing that the divine tree connects the human and heavenly realms.

Considered a season of love making, May back in the 14th century led to erecting the "maypole," which meant trees were uprooted, dragged home, and draped with fresh blooms. Wild dancing, drunkenness, and frisking together led to disgraceful behavior, which forced the British Parliament to ban maypoles in 1644.

These so-called "vegetation rituals" also brought to light humankind's role in the natural cycle of a master plan. Negative attitudes concerning pagan tree worship carried through to the 19th century, as school children chanted such remarks as "thorn means scorn" and "brooms brought in May sweep the family away."

As in the spring of my young life, it seems that, in this technological and "spring break" era, May baskets, tag, and cheek pecks would be so "uncool" and "you know uh well boooring!"

Days of our lives don't arrive in fanciful, fragrant baskets. They are what we make of them. Pull the plugs...there are still simple pleasures to enjoy 


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