It’s called Memorial Day now, but it was first known as Decoration Day. Held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer, annual Decoration Days in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountains, involve a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried. In some instances, it looks like a big family reunion is taking place in the cemetery. This used to be more prevalent, and I recall my mother telling me that families often brought picnic lunches to share under the shade of a big elm tree in a graveyard. It’s actually quite beautiful, when you think about it. People put flowers and flags on graves and renew contacts with kinfolk and others. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War.
It’s easy to forget the real meaning of Memorial Day when advertisements are everywhere. Cars and trucks (honor those killed in wars by buying a gas-guzzling truck!). Mattresses (you’ll sleep better knowing you bought an American-manufactured mattress. Right?). Anything from an electronics store, where absolutely none of those electronics is made in the USA anymore.
Or, revisit your past by finding a parade down Main Street in a small town. Fire up the grill, toss that potato salad, pop a top (again), and kick back, if you can.
For me, I’ll remember my dad, who served the United States Navy during WWII and again during the Korean War. And I’ll thank my father-in-law, who was a career Army man and a paratrooper.