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Remembering What Memorial Day Was to Me.

Monday, May 27, 2019

For the first 20 some years of my life Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day.

I was raised on a country farm in Oregon by my Grandparents.
As a child this holiday was exciting because of what we would do on Decoration Day.
Early in the morning Gramp would go out and get a couple of chickens to prepare for Gram to fry. The Potato salad would be made, I might even help in that.
Gram was a blue ribbon baker so pies, cake, fresh bread was included.
We made our own butter and might even have whip cream to top some strawberry shortcake.
The hustle and bustle of preparing the food keep me and my sister busy.
The chicken was in a large container. Salad in a large stone crock. Everything packed and ready to store away in the car.
Then it was time to gather the flowers.
Gram had a green thumb, her flowers were beautiful.
This time of year there were Ponies,Iris and Lilacs.

Gram would wrap the flower stems in wet paper and then gunny sacks. These would go in the car trunk last so not to get smashed.
Earlier Gramps had gathered what he needed to cut the grass which had over grown on the graves. He had a scythe that we girls stayed far from, it was sharp, but he knew how to use and cut the grass as well as a mower would.
Finally it was time for all of us to pile in Gramps old 1937 Chevy and head out to the cemetery .
Once we got to Scio cemetery Gramps would take the watermelon and crock of potato salad to the cold creek to stay cool in the fresh mountain water.
Then the work began on cleaning the graves, We girls helped by pulling small weeds that were close to the headstone then Gramps would cut the remaining grass with the scythe.
Gram would have us girls take the dirty urns to creek to wash out. Get a bucket of water for the fresh flowers.
The flowers would be arranged in urns which were set into the ground. I got to help doing that. I had a artistic touch for arrangement. Not my sister, she would cram then in and didn't mater size or color.
After the grave was all clean and arranged with the fresh flowers, we girls got to put the flags in the ground by the headstone. Gram would say a short prayer thanking the ones who had served and blessing our country for all we had. That was always the sign that our duty was finished for this year and we could now eat and play.
Now we headed down to the creek for a old fashioned picnic.
A couple of old crazy quilts were laid out, and a checkered tablecloth made of oilcloth was put down for the food.
As Gram opened the containers, I was always amazed as the amount of food she managed to put together almost entirely by herself.
Gramps retrieved the crock of potato salad. See even back then we knew not to let salad with mayo sit out for long without keeping it cool.
The watermelon stayed put till later. That was always the last food to be eaten. Sometimes we were so full it was almost too much. I said almost, I don't think I ever turned down watermelon.
most times after eating Gramps would go off and have a cigarette. Gram didn't allow him to smoke around her or us girls. Then he would take a nap.
Gram and us girls would put the food away. Take the dishes to the creek and clean them.
Gram would usually have some crochet or something to do.
We girls would go to the creek and see if we could catch crawdaddies, frogs or something.
The sun would be getting low in the sky when tired but happy we would pile back in the old Chevy and drive home.
Gramps passed in 1955 but we continued the trip to the cemetery. I was driving , special permit . Gram had never learned to drive.
I left home in 1958 for collage but continues to observe the tradition of Decoration Day until I left the state in 1969.
The Decoration Day had been officially changed to Memorial Day and made a federal holiday in 1967.
In the years that have passed I have lived and traveled the world over. Memorial Day finding me in many different cities.
No matter where I am the memories of how we celebrated the day in my youth, the honor and belief that my Grandparents instilled in me of what this day represents has never left me.
In a way I am still the young girl, decorating the graves with fresh flowers, placing a flag and saying a short prayer, thanking the fallen for their service.
Thought out time commercialism have eroded some celebrations.
But it doesn't have to be one or the other.
Time to honor those who served and have a picnic or a BBQ like I am today.
Whatever you do, be safe and remember we have these wonderful freedoms because of those who served.

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