Friday, May 27, 2011

Decoration Day

Britts Women in Clinton, Mo.
One of my early memories surrounds traveling with Miss Dolly (my grandmother) to her hometown of Clinton, Mo., for Decoration Day. The work started at Miss Dolly’s the day before, filling buckets and buckets with long stem cut flowers such as Irises and Peonies from her yard. Then, we would load her station wagon with the flowers to head to Clinton with my sister or cousins.
Englewood Cemetery in Clinton is an old cemetery: family plots with short stone walls; granite angels for children; tombstones reading “Mother” or “Father” in large letters, their proper name in smaller carving. My great-great aunt (right in picture to left) whom I was named for stone simply reads ANNIE in large letters, bearing no birth or death date. I guess that is how she wanted it.
At the cemetery, the kids filled the vases with the cut flowers to be distributed by my grandmother to the many graves. Miss Dolly’s sister--Aunt Lorna to me--would join us. I can see her today: always in a wide-brimmed summer hat, she would walk by Miss Dolly, freely tossing flowers here and there, saying “Mother Dear,” “Father Dear,” and on.
Yesterday, I had the honor of decorating the graves of my family in Columbia. Mom wanted to know all the details and I told her how much fun I had doing it. She replied, “that is because you remember going to Clinton for Decoration Day.” I know the holiday is called Memorial Day even if I didn’t growing up. Assuming the name changed sometime in the 1960s or 70s, I found it appropriate in “a my-family-sort-of-way” to learn today that it officially became known as Memorial Day in 1882. Regardless, it is still Decoration Day to me.

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