Monday, May 31, 2010

It used to be Decoration Day

True confession, and this will probably shock you as much as my confession that I don't really enjoy saying the rosary all that much, I don't much like Memorial Day.

I can hear your sharp intake of breath; what kind of an American are you? Go ahead, I know you are saying it.

I love my country, and I don't think that our Military Service Men (and women) should be ignored but it seems to me, that Memorial Day has gone the way of Washington and Lincoln's birthday.

First off, way back when, Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day, just like President's Day used to be two birthdays and two different days: Washington and Lincoln.

Now, in my opinion, Presidents Day should be called Shoppers Day because old George and Abe are not even mentioned in passing. Only they silhouettes show up, or some campy actor dresses to look like them, and encourage you to buy!

Is that any way to treat two of our greatest presidents?

Back to Memorial Day. It's always a nice, long weekend and we're encouraged to travel home, making this one of the busiest weekends on the road. And why are we supposed to travel home? Well to see the Memorial Day Parade, if your town has one and have a nice big barbeque! Don't forget to have watermelon, even if it isn't in season yet, your WalMart store will have it for you. And plenty of marshmallows, hot dogs .... yumm, yumm!

What about our fallen veterans?

Oh yeah, that's what the parade was for right?

My grandfather never celebrated Memorial Day. It was always Decoration Day for him. I remember he and my grandmother traveling roughly seventy miles from where they lived, to my grandmother's home town, which is where I lived at the time. In the trunk of their car would be a huge flat of red geraniums.

The next day, my grandfather would load his car with the flat of geraniums, a plastic cup, an old pail and a small garden trowel. If I was around at the time, I went into the car too, and then it was off to the village cemetery where three or more generations of family rested.

We'd go to each plot and clean around the tombstone, the only cleaning that it got all year. Then Grandpa would dig a little hole in front of the tombstone and plant a geranium. In the meantime, I would bring the pail to one of the far flung spigots, fill it with water, and bring it back to Grandpa. Well, not really fill it. Water is pretty heavy. Then Grandpa would use the plastic cup to water the geranium.

Not one grave in the whole cemetery was a blood relative to my Grandpa, but it didn't matter to him. And as we "decorated" the graves, he'd tell me about the occupants, service men or not.

That was when I learned that not only my Grandmother, but also her mother were the only daughters in a family filled with boys. In my own family, I was one of two daughters with four brothers and my cousin was the only daughter with twin brothers!

There was my great grandfather Alphonse, who had come to this country from Europe. In a time where people didn't live long, he had outlived two wives and lived to see some grandchildren.

Then there was my grand Uncle, Chester? I think it was Chester, who had served in World War I, in Europe and could never get the sound of a bomb blast out of his ears.

I was learning family history (although I am sorry to see that I have also forgotten some), no more, I was learning about the people in my family. Even though they had passed long before I was born, I knew them. Because of my grandfather.

Later, we'd return to his house in our town (he rented it out for the summer) and have a simple lunch. No barbeque, no special cake, no watermelon; just a feeling of satisfaction.

It doesn't help that now I live a ferry trip and about 60 miles away from the family graveyard. Needless to say, I haven't been there in over a year, and I can't remember the last Memorial Day that I spent there.

May-be we need to give Presidents Washington and Lincoln back their birthdays and call Presidents Day what it really is; Shoppers Day. And make Memorial Day and Decoration Day both federal holidays.


Lily said...

Family, it is what life is all about.

Style Attic said...

That is quite true! The "Shoppers Day" comment made me laugh. Thanks for your history lesson and candidness!!

Mary Bennett said...

Thankyou Lily and Style Attic. I have to admit that Memorial Day is very low key for us because we are so far from my oldest sons and the family cemetery.


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