Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Memorable Memorial....

Long time tradition for many families.. the annual visit to graves of long ago loved ones and even longer ago ancestors beloved by our grandparents' generation...  I spent all my young days traipsing along with my mother and grandmother in search of graves, placing solemn lovely, tributes... (drooping peonies carefully wrapped in wet paper towels and "tinfoil.") It seemed we had an entire trunk filled with these flowers made early morning and lovingly packed in old aluminum dishpans. As we placed the flowers, the adults would speak of these people either in memory or recited lore, and I learned the story of my past. It was beautiful, and although I was never one to appreciate long days of standing and walking in what usually was pretty strong sunshine and heat by the end of May, I still loved this day. Sometimes we finished by noon and came home to a little lunch made by my mother usually. But sometimes we took a little basket of hot dogs in white bread, wrapped quickly in foil so they would steam and make the bread soft and precious...  long drinks of cold water from a plaid thermos, and if we were super lucky, cookies made from scratch by my gramma...  I loved the cemetery picnics as a little girl.

Flash forward to now, and a new tradition has been in the works for many years. My sister/cousin and I venture forth with pretty silks and a few cut roses to visit the graves of our loved ones. We usually get a little breakfast or lunch (now from a drive through instead of packed at home) and have our own cemetery picnics. One year a well-meaning neighbor spotted our car parked in a rural graveyard and called someone to check us out... There we sat with soft tacos and our colas...  It was a great laugh because the gal who checked on us was a friend...  We wished we'd brought her a taco, too!

We visited the graves last Tuesday a week ago. Dark drizzling morning, but it was indeed a soul-nourishing time.

Our conversation flicked back and forth from old times to now, from loved ones to family legend.

Sweet connections with those who are not with us in the real sense but who will never really travel beyond our hearts' reach.

This past Sunday and yesterday on Memorial Day, my son and I ventured into a time capsule of highest order..  We decided to tackle the two steamer trunks and the cedar hope chest in an attempt to consolidate and eliminate some things, making more storage and finding out if we needed to "keep much" in those things.  Haha...  That determination is still up for grabs. 

First...  we opened the huge trunk with the most messages from the past. Luckily I am familiar with all "historian" handwriting, so I could decipher the many "my mother's baby dress... and my father's work gloves, etc."  All notes fluttered to the ground penned on tiny wisps of check stubs and the backs of grocery receipts. I really wonder at the scarcity and preservation of paper in those days. We could have saved so many trees if we still used every scrap like they did. The steamer trunk, purchased new in 1919 as a wedding necessity for my grandparents, was in great shape. We laughed so hard at the quilt I had always thought my mother embroidered for me, carefully wrapped and marked, "FOR GERRED."  He gave it to me any way since it was covered in autumn leaves and acorns and all things I love.  I gave him all the military items, all the old money, foreign money, and memorabilia from Wars 1 and 2. We marveled that the ones from WW1 simply said, From the War of 1917 or The Great War...  innocent of any succeeding involvements yet to come. 

As you can see, the other trunk was beautiful inside and also filled with family keepsakes. Our stacks of treasures grew alarmingly and our pile of throwaway was just a little sparse. We kept saying, "Well, they kept it this long..." and "It doesn't take up any more room than anything else."  And so it goes. I guess we did manage to get it all condensed into one trunk, and my son is going to take all of it to his house because he likes the trunks!!!  Oh, I have more trunks and I am thrilled. 

The rising sun flags and silk kimonos, the old serge suit shirt and tie worn last by my great grandfather Willard...  "my daddy's second best shirt." --- penned by my gramma.... (Because we all know he was buried in his finest.)----  All looked and felt brand new, thanks to the wonders of cedar. It's a definite thing...  Cedar really preserves the past.

 And in the old foreign money, I spy this bill, signatures faint and proud. We read about the currency and the use of pesos in the Philippines during the war on Wikipedia...  and I search the names for one or two I might recognize. I finally found Norm Helgestad, my dad's war buddy from Wisconsin. I then knew it was a Victory Bill, signed by my dad's unit...  except, of course the one signature I wanted the most...  my dad's. It's understandable he wouldn't sign his own bill...  Here he is in uniform...

The last wearing of the doughboy WW1 uniform from France was by my son many moons ago at a Roaring 20's New Year's Eve party...  Gotta love the addition of the non-standard-issue little red snowboots!  It makes my heart melt to see this from over 30 years ago...  

All in all...  back to the usual today with a visit from a dear friend who lives pretty far away...  Why is she here? Why, she is bringing flowers to her family graves in the area. How appropriately perfect. May we never forget and ever remember....  which on the surface sounds redundant, but based on this weekend...  I see the two as profoundly different.  Happy Summer... it's on the way.


Miss Merry said...

Lovely post. Memories of the past and hope and friendship in the present. Love the photo of your little son in uniform. And your dad is so handsome! I have 7 banker boxes next on my list. They are filled with little things, things I remember on dressers and in book cases and even in boxes at my mothers and my grandmothers. No one but me has these memories and my children have no attachment to them. I am going to try to condense to one box. Somehow. Someway.

Heaven's Walk said...

What an amazingly memorable time you had with Gerred looking through those trunks and resurrecting those sweet memories, Gayla. So many treasures to be cherished for years to come! I love seeing my parents' handwriting on cards and notes I've saved, and keep a pic of them holding me in their arms at my grandparent's cottage on Lake Michigan....the place where I spent my summers as a child. Bless you, sweet friend!

xoxo Laurie

racheld said...

Such a lovely, remembery day, and the sharing of it simply multplies. All your memories rekindled, from the foil-swaddled flowers to the soft familiarity of a morning-wrapped hot dog---it's all there, in the feel and the taste and the heat of the day.

Upstairs in my house is your trunk's twin, with every hinge and lock and strap akin in their staunch stance against time. I love the roundy hump of them, with the promise of old-time hats and shoes, or pirate treasure.

What a lovely post this is, with all the remembrance and plans for the future.


From My Country Sunrise said...

Special times and these traditions I love to do with you~~ Love you to the moon and back and all our tea parties♥