For most of my childhood, my family spent Memorial Day weekend in the country hills near my grandparents' homes in southern Missouri. Some years my brother, Mom, Dad and I would drive 12-17 hours (depending on where we lived at the time) straight through to get to Granny's house on time. It was always the start of vacation for my family. We would spend the first weekend, Memorial Day weekend, gathering up silk and plastic flowers at the temporary shops popping up just for the holiday. The shopping was always done by us ladies. On Memorial Day, the whole family packed the car up with a picnic and the bushels of flowers and drove from one old hidden cemetery to another to visit the graves of family going generations back. I would listen closely as my parents and grandparents told each other stories and remembered those that had passed on. I delighted in helping to choose the flowers I thought were appropriate for each person based on the stories I heard about them. Purple and pink, my favorite colors in my young years, were saved for the girls and ladies I thought. Red, yellow, and blue for the men, many veterans. And I saved the white flowers for those I thought didn't sound very nice because it was my least favorite flower color. Even then I was fascinated by the headstones, running my fingers over the names and dates and added words someone chose to represent their loved ones. I remember, very rarely, there would be a headstone with a picture of the person on it somehow and now, so many years later, I can't remember how that would be. I don't remember if it was a photograph under glass or etched in somehow, but I remember being enthralled with it.
Now, as an adult I've wondered why in the South there is this rich tradition of decorating all graves, not just those who died in our nation's service. I've had a hard time finding a lot of information on it, but I believe it used to be called Decoration Day and was a day set aside for family members to visit, clean up, and decorate the graves of family members and friends at the start of summer. In 1868, Decoration Day was replaced with Memorial Day and became a day of national recognition for those who sacrificed their lives for our nation. I think that old Decoration Day tradition is just still also observed by certain regions without much discussion of why or when it started or how it transformed over the years.
So, I head into this weekend with just a twinge of sadness pulling on my heart. My brother and I are all that is left of our family and we live 1800 miles away now. I am sad that no little girl is there to carefully choose flowers for my parent's graves or that family members will not enjoy a picnic nearby and tell stories of my grandparents. I am sad that their graves will be undecorated and appear forgotten to some that might pass by. In my mind, I have placed flowers there a hundred times in the years since they passed. I hope they can see them from heaven. Pink and purple for the ladies. Red, yellow, and blue for the men. And no white for anybody.
Every Now & Then
copyright Marsha Jorgensen 5/16/2013. All rights reserved.
Digital visual journaling. Image credits: Tumble Fish Studio kits including Melies-ish, Once Upon a Time, City Skies, Celestial Journal Cards, Journaling Pieces 1 & 2, Jiant Journaling Mix.
On to happier summer thoughts . . .
If you haven't already, you need to check out Artful Gathering. The two summer sessions of online classes are just the bee's knees and a great way to treat yourself to creative vacations all summer long. Registration is open for both sessions so head on over and check things out from Pam Carriker, Keith Lo Bue, Pamela Huntington, and many more including my personal favorite Mary Jane Chadbourne! (pictures are linked to the site)