Monday, May 31, 2010

Memories of Memorial Day, Flowers and Tin Cans

When I was growing up my dad's parents always lived near us. Grandma and Grandpa were a constant in our lives. On holidays, we were usually either at their house or they were at ours. I took it for granted back then, but as the years passed and I got older, ( I think in my college years) I came to realize what treasures they were in my life and tried to remember stories as they told them and the people from the past that were named. As a child I think it's hard to imagine your grandparents as younger than they are- that they had lives before you were born.

As the end of May approaches each year, my mind goes back to the times that I would interrupt my play when I was staying at their house and help Grandma gather flowers from her yard on the farm to take to the graves of family on what was then called Decoration Day. The name was changed by Congress in 1967 to Memorial Day.

The day was set aside to honor our fallen veterans, but it was also a time to "decorate" the graves of loved ones and remember them. It was my introduction to many of my ancestors-- Brothers, aunts, uncles, sisters, parents and cousins of my dad and grandparents.

Grandma and I would walk around then yard with a galvanized bucket of water, and as we cut flowers for the bouquets, Grandma would place the stems down into the water.

I remember gathering Zinnias...


and Irises.

We would then gather all of the tin cans that she had been saving and place them on the picnic table under a tree and make our bouquets. Grandma would then place them in a box so they wouldn't tip over in the trunk.

Grandpa drove us to the cemetery and there we would walk to the area where most of their families were buried. I would read on the tombstones the names that matched my last name and some that didn't. Grandma's name had been Reed, so we looked for those name, too. Grandma and Grandpa would tell me who they were. We would set the tin cans down and make sure they were level so as not to tip over.

Over across a fence you could see where the groundskeeper threw away dead flowers and containers. I knew that Grandma's bouquets would end up there in a week or so. But for now they were pretty and bright and "decorated" the graves.

We had come and remembered these ones who had gone on before us. Since I hadn't known these relatives, it was not sad for me. But I remember my Grandma tearing up sometimes as she pointed out a grave of someone close to her. And Grandpa walked around and groomed some of the family graves by pulling some weeds around the stones.

What memories do you have of Memorial Day or doing things with your Grandparents? I'd love to hear them.:)


BECKY said...

Hi Sweetie,
We never spent Memorial Day with our grandparents that I remember, but it is so precious to read of your visits to the cemetary.

I remember visits to my Mama Rose and Papa Sammy so very well. All of us six kids LOVED going there. We had friends next door to them, and our cousins would often be there at the same time. Plus Papa Sammy raised rabbits, and we always got to play with them.

Thanks Linda, for the fond memories and for sharing your special moments.

Love you sweet gal!

Sandy said...

This is such a special post! So neat how your Grandma had so many fresh flowers in her yard and used the tin cans, and you helped her! I have very fond memories of all of my Grandparents, and have been thinking about them a lot today.
I remember by Grandma's big vegetable garden, all of the canning and sewing and cooking she did for us.
I remember going to the cemetery, too.
Thank you again for sharing!

Elena said...

Such a beautiful post! It brought tears to my eyes as I read it. I wished that more of my relatives were in one place. I guess that is due a lot to WWII and families becoming more mobile. I am thankful that I am able to take Mary to the cememtary were my mom, infant brother, Aunt, Uncle and cousin are buried. The cemetary is very close to my childhood home and many memories flood into my mind as we drive out there. I am so thankful my tears are not of sorrow with no hope, but they are filled with hope as I reflect on the day the Lord returns. Bless you dear sister. Hugs, Elena

Walking on Sunshine... said...

I remember calling it Decoration Day, even though I was only 3 when they changed the name. I think it took awhile for the name change to really take. Since my father was from Germany we never did any of the decorating and the only memories my father and his family have of war were the wars that they experienced in Germany and my grandmother lost all her brothers in WWI and was always very sad to talk about it.

But I loved reading your memories!!! Thanks for sharing them!

LDH said...

Such precious memories. Your flowers are just beautiful and look so sweet in the cans ~ perfect arrangements!

Jennifer said...

I love the idea of decoration day...rather sad how this holiday has become more of "ring in the summer" beach party weekend! Such wonderful memories you have..

Hope your weekend this year was a special one as well.

Bill said...

Hi Linda,
I enjoyed your post very much. Thank you for sharing so many lovely memories. I could relate to so much of what you wrote -- especially the part about not feeling sad as a child (not having known the people whose graves were were decorating). I recall my aunt and my great-uncle tearing up at the mention of their mother's names, many decades after they'd passed away (they were both young when they lost their mothers).

Thank you for stopping by and leaving the thoughtful comment.

Hope the rest of your week goes well.


Heidi Pocketbook said...

I remember Decoration Day--although my first cemetery memories would have been about the time they changed the name. I totally forgot about putting flowers in tin cans!

We always took peonies, unless there were already peony bushes next to the grave site. I wish the cemetery still allowed perennials! On the graves that had concrete urns, we would plant geraniums and visit the graves frequently throughout the summer to water them.

My mom always took it upon herself to decorate the cemetery graves of family members and good friends with artificial flowers once I was older. Since she has resided in the nursing home for the last two years, I have taken over *some* of the graves.

I enjoyed reading your memories, Linda :-)


Anonymous said...

Sometimes we would visit my father-in-law's grave and later my mother-in-law's also on Memorial Day. This holiday helps us remember those who are gone, most recently my uncle. Thank you for this post, a time of remembrance.