Decoration Day…only if you are Southern will you get this one. If you are not Southern, then you need to know about this to appreciate what we Southern children know down deep in our souls.
Decoration Day is a Sunday in May or June when your family gathers at the cemetery where all your relatives from generations past (kinfolk) are buried. In the South most of the time your deceased family members were all placed in the same cemetery out of respect to those gone before.
It was important in our family when I was growing up because it was important to my mother and my grandmother and her mother before that. You just didn’t miss. It was a command performance.
Now, this might seem morbid to the unaware, but it was the day that you dressed in your Sunday best, picked flowers from your garden, and carefully strolled through the cemetery and placed blossoms on the graves of your relatives out of respect. It was not a day we looked forward to because every Sunday this occurred, the temperature in the South would break sweltering records. And it was a day when hose, heels, and dresses were mandatory—gloves and hats, too, if you had them.
After all, it was your time to shine. And you better make your mother proud. So every Mother’s Day, it was Decoration Day at my mother’s family place. There were seven girl cousins and three boy cousins all decked out. We were hugged by people we had never seen before and told a zillion times, “You look just like your mama.” Agreed.
The guys left us, escaping to remove ties, and we seven girls strolled about making our mamas and our grandmother very proud. We would listen to stories of how this was the most important day of the year when they were growing up, as this was when they would see aunts and uncles and long-lost cousins.
Afterwards, there was always a huge Sunday lunch back at my grandmother’s house, the event for which our mothers had been cooking for a week. You always brought your best dishes and desserts. What a feast.
I know now what my mother had been talking about all those years. The day we dreaded always turned out to be one of the most fun days. It would take us girl cousins all day to tell stories of boys, school, church activities, trips, and projects we were stitching or sewing. We would sit on the big porch swing and talk for hours.
I miss those days of sitting and talking. I wish today our children had that experience of face-to-face conversation. They all have mastered texting and emailing, but nothing replaces the spoken word and sharing stories from what will be “the good old days” before too long.
That day in our growing up years was about family legacy. It was the respect for your family that transcended generations. The placing of the flowers meant we remembered you and your legacy that you left us. Each generation writes their own legacy for others to build on.
Each Decoration Day, we did our mamas proud. Success.
Today all of us cousins are texting, e-mailing, and sending photos, but nothing replaces a visit and sharing over a cup of coffee. Some things will never change, will they?
Do you have a family tradition that you would like to share?