Every year, my mom helped us make May baskets to fill with candy and leave on the doorsteps of our friends. As mentioned in an earlier post, we’d ring the doorbell and run. If the recipient caught us, they could kiss or pinch us—their choice.
Some years we bought fancy handled nut cups from the dime store and used them, but I liked best to make my own. One year, my mother showed us something special to use for May baskets. Her family knew how to make these incredible tissue-paper ornaments that, with a cupcake liner filled with candy glued into the bottom, hung down in a web-like form. We’d pin them at the top and when you held them up they would fall down in a lacy accordion effect so they were a foot or two high. The only way you could really get the effect was to put them on the floor and hold up the top part or hang them from something.
She didn’t remember whether it was her mother or one of her seven older siblings who taught her how to make them, but about five years ago, when I went to the International Music festival in Adelaide, Australia, I went into one of the tents on local cultures around the world and saw my mom’s May baskets hanging all over the tent! It seemed surreal. The tent was displaying handicrafts from the Philippines, and it turns out that my mom’s May baskets were actually hand-cut Philippine lanterns. Suddenly, it all made sense.
My mother’s older sister had married an army officer who served under General MacArthur and my aunt had become a very good friend of Jean MacArthur. She told a funny story about going to a ball and not having a dress to wear and either Jean persuaded my aunt to wear one of Jean’s very fancy satin nightgowns or vice versa. (Wish I’d written down all these family stories when they were fresh.) Anyway, when MacArthur was sent to the Philippines during the war, he took my Uncle Tubby with him.
Jean MacArthur elected to stay in the Philippines with her husband and at one point, my Aunt Betty was there as well. She talked of journeying through headhunter country and other adventures I have forgotten and that she had perhaps embellished, but the point of this circuitous story is that obviously, it was my Aunt Betty who brought the tradition of hand-cut Philippine tissue paper lanterns back to Junction City, Kansas, creating a family tradition that I must remember to hand down to my three nieces—the last surviving members of the family who might be remotely interested in how to create three-dimensional beauty from a flat piece of tissue paper.
I’m going to stop now and go to find two sheets of contrasting color tissue paper and a pair of scissors, to see if I even remember how!!! I’ll post a picture if I figure it out. (I, alas, could find only one piece of tissue paper, so I’ll have to post a less-spectacular example of this family craft that after three tries, I finally remembered.)
Now, I’d love for you to pass along a story about one of your own special family memories, handicrafts or recipes by posting it on my blog.
Happy Mayday, five days late. Happy family memories and here’s to passing them on.