Thursday, May 27, 2010
We're approaching Memorial Day Weekend! The experts are predicting lots of travel, picnics, K-4's and K-10's, etc., parades, golfing, boating, beaches and sunburns. We'll be on the road to Colorado to visit the Fab 5.
It didn't used to be that way. As a child there were no picnics, family gatherings, or water skiing on a lake. It was all about the cemetery! Our little 4H Club consisting of about 12 girls and their 3 leaders would gather at the local church basement. We would disperse throughout the community to go knock on doors to ask very kind ladies if we could have the flowers in their yards to put on the graves of the soldiers at the cemetery. Every one always said yes, after all it was "Decoration Day" and the community took great pride in decorating those grassy plots of land. Flowers gardens everywhere were stripped naked. The flowers were placed in buckets of water and carted back to the church basement where we spent hours tying them into neat bundles. They were laid out on newspapers on the floor until all were wrapped up in ribbon. It was a careful procedure, mixing Iris with Peonies, petunias with Queen Anne's Lace, etc. (Only later in life did I learn that Queen Anne's Lace was a weed and that it was the culprit that caused the itching.)
The flower bundles were then loaded into cars and we were off to the cemetery which was about a mile away on the edge of town. The headstones we were to visit were clearly identified by a small US flag placed by the granite earlier in the morning.
It was a beautiful sight. We scattered like flies and soon every brave soldier was remembered by a wilting bouquet. There were others decorating graves of their loved ones, usually with a potted plant, a homemade cross or a plastic wreath recently purchased at the local dime store. The cemetery was the place to be for all the action on that day.
Memorial Day itself followed preparation day. It was then that relatives of the deceased would fill the small cemetery walking from one end to the other, sharing memories and telling stories. Sometimes whole families would gather, hold hands and pray or even sing. I would go with my grandparents and they were always very quiet, holding back tears as we walked toward the small white tombstone of their only daughter, my mother.
Years later I repeated that walk and visited them, my father, some cousins and townspeople that were also resting there. Two WWII veteran uncles are located by the bronze memorial stones the government provided.
It's still important for that small town and probably many like it across the land to keep up those flowering traditions. Seems like folks in small towns make it a point to REMEMBER!
REMEMBER, one of the most important words in the English language. Remembering the good gives reason to celebrate, remembering the bad gives pause with a promise of "never again." There are so many families in our country now that are remembering loved ones that never came back from our most recent wars. The soil is still freshly turned. I'm thinking of them today and praying that they'll be comforted by knowing that folks DO remember and appreciate their tremendous sacrifice.