What did you do on Memorial Day? We stayed home. We did some house cleaning and grilled hot dogs. That’s about it.
We didn’t do a whole lot the entire weekend. Jenny and I don’t have any interest in car racing, NASCAR or otherwise, so we didn’t even watch the two big races in Indianapolis and Charlotte on TV.
We did drive to Oxford Saturday night to go out to dinner because we had a gift card for a place called Boure on the Courthouse square. My son Jon and his wife, who live in northern Virginia, had sent it as a gift last Christmas and we had never gotten around to using it. Jenny doesn’t have much enthusiasm for a date night in Oxford because she commutes there during the week to teach school. Heading back to go out to dinner is not her favorite thing.
But school is out and we were feeling a little guilty about not using the gift card. So off we went. The food – crab cakes for Jenny, grouper for me and jambalaya for our son Joe — was very good, but when I got the bill, I was happy I had a gift card.
I started to think about what we had done on the weekend when I got a newsletter from a former colleague at the San Diego newspaper where I worked. He is retired and sends out a daily newsletter – he calls it a blog – that pulls together notes he gets from former employees of the paper.
In the newsletter he said his wife’s 83-year-old uncle was making the rounds of cemeteries in northwestern Ohio, “decorating the graves of his wife, his siblings, his parents and who knows who else….I remember times in Ohio when I joined the ‘old folks’ as they traveled to cemeteries behind churches in numerous small towns. They knew where every ancestor was buried. This strikes me as something very American.”
He went on to lament that people in California, many transplanted from somewhere else, have lost “some of this sense of community, having moved so far from our roots.”
That pretty much fits us, too. We’re not close to any cemeteries where we have relatives buried. Our Memorial Day is very different than I remember growing up in Missouri.
My mother would cut flowers, fill Mason jars with water, and we would go to “the country” (as my mother used to call it) to decorate graves in rural north Missouri. Today, I would have trouble finding the gravel roads leading to some of them, and even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to remember which ancestor is buried where.
My parents are buried in Kansas City and we usually stop in the cemetery when we visit my sister and her husband, who still live there. But it’s been more than a decade since I was in the rural area where my parents are originally from and where I was born.
Memorial Day, originally intended to honor those who lost their lives in U.S. wars, evolved into a family tradition of cemetery visits. Now it’s primarily a day of rest after a long winter of work. Things change, and not necessarily for the better.
T. Wayne Mitchell, Gazette publisher, can be reached at 662-534-6321 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.