Thursday, May 26, 2016

Memorial Day Flowers

Memorial Day.

Do people still do the tradition of putting flowers on loved ones graves at Memorial Day? I see flowers on many graves as I go about exploring cemeteries, but they often look old and faded. This could just be because with the exposure to wind and sun, the silk flowers fade rather quickly. A few places have live plants or flowers, but these, of course, die quickly unless you can go there frequently to water and tend to them which most of us don’t have time to do or are too far away from where the graves are.

I don’t remember when I made the first trip to the cemetery to put flowers on my grandparents’ graves. I’m sure it was some evening in the week before Memorial Day after supper. That was the way my parents would always do it. After the dishes were done, we would get in the car and head south to go around the lake and head to Scipio where my Dad’s parents were buried. They had died three years before I was born, so the routine would have been already established by that spring when I was a baby.

Did we go to Skaneateles to put flowers on my Mom’s grandparents graves? I don’t remember, but Grandma, her mother, passed away just before my fifth birthday and the following spring we definitely would have been heading that direction some evening in that week before the holiday. I remember Mom putting an arrangement on her grandparents’ grave as well, so she might have been doing that prior to her mother’s death.

Over the years as I was growing up, this was a yearly ritual for us. I took it for granted that everybody did this for their grandparents. As I got older, I realized that only some people do that. My mother continued on for many years. She added her father’s grave when I was ten. As I grew up and left the house, I no longer accompanied my parents, but knew they did this still. In my early 30s, my father’s was added to the list, across the driveway from his parents.

I rode along with my mother from time to time as she did this job alone over the years. When she stopped driving, I would make sure she got to the store and was able to select the flowers. Most of the time I took her as well. Occasionally  my brother would if I didn’t have a chance. As she got older, I took over going to Skaneateles for her. She still goes out to my father’s grave, but now just watches from the car as I arrange the flowers in the vases on either side of their stone.

And so the tradition passes. From one generation to the next. Remembering and taking care of putting flowers on the ancestors’ graves.

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