As Memorial Day nears, I get the urge to go around to the cemeteries where my family’s families are buried, Church Hill, Kemble’s, East Fairfield, Carmel, and Deersville. My parents still make the rounds to some of them. When I was growing up, we went each year to clean up the plots, trim and weed around headstones, and “decorate” with pots or plantings.
Flower pots, tools and mowers (sometimes gas cans) were loaded in the trunk of our car. This was the only time I can think of when Dad drove our car with the trunk open (what an event!) since we tied it down around the mower that stuck out. This didn’t seem like a good thing to me, but we’d usually pass other people at the cemetery who had done the same thing, so I guessed it was OK.
Although we were supposed to help, these childhood trips meant mostly fun for my brothers and me. We would try to find certain landmarks that we remembered – stones with interesting shapes, names or special carvings on them.
My mother’s parents are buried farther away than any one else. Telling about our “Decoration Day” trips there makes a story for another time, but our yearly trip was special because we usually visited relatives who lived near by and made it a sort of family reunion.
Since I’ve been married, I’ve made the cemetery visits much less. My husband’s Memorial Day custom is to go to the service that is held closest to us at Columbiana Cemetery. There is a parade which my kids have always looked forward to. I am moved to lump-in-the-throat-tears that come a little quicker with each year when I hear Taps played on a bugle. I always jump a bit when the gun salute is fired even though I know it is coming.
I would like my girls to know where these places our relatives are buried are, but I can’t always expect them to pick up the traditions I’ve known. Sometimes it’s better for them to start a new one of their own. So we combine some of their Dad’s with some of mine. I just hope we pass on to our children a pride in our country and it’s history, our families and their past, and make sure they know that we take this time as a holiday because most of what we are we owe to this past.
One final mouthful for your holiday weekend, “May Your Memorial Day be Memorable.”