Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Memorial Day Memories

Sylvia survived three of her children and her husband. Most of them are buried in a small country cemetery not too far from my house. She joined them there last fall at the age of 88. It was extremely important to her that the graves be decorated, and every year, she spent money she really couldn’t afford on hideous arrangements of plastic flowers to put on the graves on Memorial Day. She also sent money to her daughter-in-law in California to buy flowers so that her son’s grave would be decorated. As this Memorial Day approached, I couldn’t help but wonder if Sylvia’s two surviving daughters would drive the 90 miles from their homes to come here to decorate her grave with the dedication that she would have devoted to theirs had she survived. However, having said that, this business of decorating graves on Memorial Day was and is totally foreign to me. My parents did not believe in visiting graves or decorating them. In fact, my parents did not believe that children needed to be at funerals, so I did not attend the burials of any of my relatives (two great grandmothers, two grandmothers) who died when I was a child. Instead, it was a tradition that on Memorial Day we got up very early and drove to the Charlton Flats picnic area in the San Gabriel Mountains. My dad would set up his camp stoves and began getting ready to prepare breakfast—pancakes and sausage—for most of the people at the church we attended, who would begin to straggle in within an hour or so. Us kids would run around and play and have a good time, and eat lunch too, and as the day wore on, people would turn on their radios (not sure if these were transistor radios or car radios running on auxiliary power) and the sounds of the cars racing around the oval at the Indianapolis 500 would fill the picnic area. Then came the Memorial Day when the family left for the traditional breakfast without me. I was stuck at home working on a college term paper that had to be finished. There were no personal computers back then, these term papers were pounded out on a standard manual Royal typewriter. I think the church-sponsored breakfast came to an end about that time. People grow weary of doing the same thing over and over, year after year....

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