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The old riddle goes, “If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?”
The answer, of course, is: *Pilgrims!*
But where I grew up, May Day – May 1st – was when we delivered small baskets of flowers to neighbors who were older like the Neckstads and Mrs. Salmon and Mrs. Perry, our teachers from school and Sunday School, and family friends like the McCartneys and Vances and Olsens.
Sometimes we’d labor the whole week before to make the flowers and baskets ourselves. Our craft table would be strewn with construction paper and pipe cleaners and crayolas, scissors and tape and glue. Maybe the “basket” would actually be a sort of easy-to-make cone, for a cornucopia of construction paper flowers. Or it might be a more elaborate holder, woven from long strips of craft paper.
Sometimes we’d put a real live potted pansy or marigold in a basket we’d made, or curl a cone and fill it with a tied-up bunch of snipped-off violets or posies. Of course, getting real flowers meant a field trip to The Greenhouse …
It was only a few blocks away from us, at the end of the wide gravel road in front of our house. If the weather was nice enough, Mom would walk with all three of us kids the four blocks down at the end of our street. There at The Greenhouse, we’d each get to choose a small potted plant or two to give as May Day gifts.
And, oh! What a wondrous but mysterious place The Greenhouse was to me as a pre-schooler! It just felt magical, before I even had words to describe how and why. Now I know it was because it was a completely different world apart from all I was used to.
The quality of light was different, from steamed-up windows and frosted glass everywhere. And the cool, misty air from hoses and spray bottles and water drippers. And old wooden tables in really long rows, with all kinds of shelves and cans and bags and pots and plants on top and underneath them. And the most amazing fragrance – a mixture of shredded bark and sharp stemmy “green,” humid dirt but that’s not really mud, floral and citrus and bubblegum sweet. The entire place was a marvel: so much to look over, sniff at, dig into!
Over the years, different families operated The Greenhouse. But they all seemed to be people who were kind to us kids, and patient in helping us pick out our plants for May Day. After all, they offered so many choices – so many colors that only these greenhouse flowers seemed to have with bright yellows and oranges, blues and purples from light to deep, brick reds, magentas and maroons. How to choose when you have more flower colors than crayons?
But the people never seemed to be in a rush with us. It makes sense to me now. If you love plants and flowers, how can you not love people and their families?
And all this worked together to make May Day flowers after April showers one of the most special events of the year …