Monday, May 27, 2013

Decoration Day

My mom still celebrates Memorial Day the old-fashioned day, as if it were still called Decoration Day. I know, it's supposed to be about dead soldiers, but we weren't a military family. Without googling, I recall D-Day as something that came about after the Civil War, which was the first time in the US there were so many new graves to commemorate at the same time. The deal was you would start growing your annual flowers in the spring, and by the last week of May they would be ready to cut and place on graves. So in many small communities, women would harvest armloads and baskets full of fresh-cut flowers, all at once, and take them to the nearest cemetery and decorate all the headstones.

At least that's how it was passed down to me.

I don't garden. I have a couple of unkillable aloes in the house, a couple of scarlet begonia plants I picked up at Menards in hanging baskets on the porch, and a hydrangea I got from Mom I desperately need to get in the ground before it dies. But I don't really grow anything, due to my overall laziness and lack of interest.

But on many, many D-Days in my youth, my mom and sisters (Dad was never into it) would load up the family truckster with flowers (mostly fake) and do the cemetery tour, as I called it. Usually Ladoga (the Kellers), Waveland (the Brewers), and maybe one other I don't recall the name of out in the middle of cornfields, probably for my great-grandparents on Mom's side (the Paynes), plus a trip to the Keller farms about half a mile apart from each other, though we don't really fraternize with Leon's (my uncle) family anymore and my grandparents' farm I recall from my childhood Mom now rents, so we can't really go in the farmhouse, just tour the land a bit.

Mom is still around, and Dad. My sisters are too but they are doing their own thing these days, mostly kids and separate lives, etc. I am my own person as well. I don't regret not doing the cemetery tour anymore, although I'm not intentionally boycotting it. It just hasn't happened in some years. I was always kind of dragged along like I often was: too young to protest, though I clearly wasn't interested. Still it gave me perspective men in my family lack: the grief of the womenfolk and how they handle loss and remembrance.

For a time, roughly my teen years till about 27 or so, I was really depressed, about a lot of things but I think partly because I was caught between these worlds: the stoic Midwestern dad world and my grave-decorating mom world. I did not know how to handle my own emotions, at least partly because my role models weren't too clear to me. Not to point fingers, that's just how things were. And I grew and worked my way out of that, and today feel grounded and happy to have down days and also feel cautious anytime I get too "happy."

There's a lot of commentary today, everywhere, about today. Memorial Day. It's for the soldiers. It's the first day of "summer." It's yet another holiday stolen from blacks (slaves). It's a time to cookout. Or decorate a grave. Or go to the beach. Or or or.

My house is quiet. I had a great show yesterday. My cat is a useless snoozing lump one chair over. I don't feel like perseverating over the dead, or cooking out, or going to the beach. It's just after 1p, I rose late and had a big breakfast. If I accomplish anything today, I might mow the yard. Or at very least put my sound effects gear away, as it is strewn all over the house.

Actually I think the one thing I will accomplish today is plant that hydrangea. That would be a nice gesture.

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