Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Memories

When I was a girl Memorial Day was a working holiday, a ritual that I enjoyed and looked foward to. My grandfather and my mother would cut some of the better looking flowers from their yards, peonies mostly, with some others thrown in. They would have saved up orange juice concentrate cans, which were then covered with aluminum foil to use as vases. My grandfather had moved into the area as a boy and his parents and some of his siblings were buried nearby. We made the round of cemeteries. There was almost always someone at the gate of the graveyard collecting money for upkeep. My grandfather would hand over a plain white envelope to each one. My mother would bring clippers and we'd spruce up the graves we visited, trimming back any encroaching weeds.

I've moved away from those cemeteries. In fact, I haven't visited my father's grave since his death, and my grandfather's only once or twice. It bothers me this time of year that I am not close enough to visit my dead. In rural areas old family cemeteries that were tucked away in an unused section of farmland are falling into disrepair. Mr. J's family helped care for a small graveyard that housed many of his ancestors as well as other pioneer settlers in that township. But most of the families have moved away or died out. The tombstones are broken and weathered to the point of near illegibility. (We took rubbings of some of them and trascribed as many as possible years ago.) Soon the cemetery records in the local public library will be all that remains of them.

While this bothers me, it is not the first time our families have faced this dilemma. With each wave of immigration or internal migration, we move away from our dead. The only way to avoid it is to never leave your birthplace. I miss the ritual though and have not found a way to replace it.

1 comment:

doomsy said...


Those are nice recollections in the sense that it shows respect for the sacrifices of others, which is what a lot of this weekend is supposed to be about as far as I'm concerned. Thanks for sharing them.

Also, on a wholly other subject, I had meant to add you to my blogroll a long time ago, and I finally got around to doing it tonight. I hope that helps in some small way.