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I have a very wonderful memory of a long-ago May Day in the 1940s. My mother and I were staying with my grandmother in Lansing, Kansas, a tiny town at the time, notable only because it was the home of the Kansas State Penetentiary, where my grandfather had been quartermaster for many years. He had suffered a stroke and my grandmother needed the help of my mother to care for him. So she and I left my father in Kansas City and settled in with my grandmother for what was to be a stay of a few months.

Life in Lansing was very different from that in the big city! I was enrolled in the elementary school and much to my amazement suddenly achieved an unfamiliar status as the most popular girl in the class, owing to my big-city resume.

I didn’t know there was anything special about May Day, but late that afternoon the doorbell rang repeatedly. When I answered, there was no one there, only a series of paper cones filled with wild flowers  which had been hung on the doorknob by anonymous admirers. I can honestly say it was one of the best days of my life.

1901 —May Day in Central Park, Maurice Prendergast.American artist 1858-1924

1901 —May Day in Central Park, Maurice Prendergast.American artist 1858-1924

The celebration of May Day seems to have been a pagan religious custom. Later secular versions included dancing around a May Pole and the leaving of May baskets, a custom that so enhanced my childhood self esteem.