I was reading Auto Week magazine this morning and thinking how much I LOVE reading car magazines. It’s a problem though because I never want to throw them away. I want to go back and read them again and again. And now I’ve got a pile of magazines (including mags the neighbor gives me to “recycle” and the subscription my mom gave me to Cook’s Country, which is SO well written and delicious, as well as church magazines) that’s reaching fire hazard status. Maybe I should skip reading the next couple of novels in my bedside pile and go after the magazine tower.
Meanwhile, it’s Memorial Day. As a kid growing up this was my very favorite holiday. More than Christmas, to tell the truth. Is that strange? Perhaps, but I loved it for a lot of reasons. One, it was the big “school’s out!” celebration. It had generally warmed up enough in those northern climes we could wear shorts and it was summer! That is a powerful word in a kid’s vocabulary. Two, we got together as a family at either my great aunt Laura’s house or the park and got to see cousins and second cousins and aunts and uncles on the Stewart side. It was an all-you-can-drink soda pop festival with a big, new and shiny silver garbage can filled with ice water and cans of pop floating in it. Shasta, Pepsi (we were a strictly Pepsi family, never Coke), Dr. Pepper, Fresca, Tab, 7-Up, A&W, Red Cream Soda! Oh, yeah. And then there were the bottles of pop from the local bottler, “Pop Shoppe,” with all the fruity kid flavors. We had to save the bottles and turn them in for a deposit so they could be washed and refilled with delicious orange and grape and strawberry pop. Good times in Logan, Utah.
Third, it was a fried chicken day. My mom always fried her own chicken and it was delicious, but my cousins’ moms caved and bought Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sometimes I’d snitch. That stuff was like ambrosia on a cool, sunshiny day.
One of the best things was the lilacs. On Sunday evening before Memorial Day, we’d go out to our huge lilac bushes and snip the white or light purple or dark purple flowers that smelled the way spring should smell. My mom would get vases or else tin cans covered in aluminum foil (to look fancier) and fill them with stems and stems of the lilacs. We’d transport them to the cemetery in Richmond where my mom’s Norwegian grandparents are buried, and to Logan where my dad’s pioneer ancestors rest. Such pretty cemeteries. On the way, they’d tell us stories of our loved ones gone before. By the time we got to the cemeteries to see the granite markers, we felt we knew these family members and were glad to place the flowers there in their honor and in honor of the many sacrifices they made (leaving behind the known to go into the unknown) so we could live in that beautiful green valley, which the cemetery overlooked.
I can still feel the chiseled out letters in the rough granite on some markers, the smooth, polished granite of other monuments. My maternal grandfather’s grave has a metal dowel with a medallion denoting his service in the army in World War II. The American Legion comes through right before Memorial Day and plants a small American flag on each grave with such medallions. As a kid I knew he’d served our country, as had my father and other grandfather and many uncles. I knew I lived in a good land. I knew it was good to be alive and there were people who’d given a lot for me to have a nice picnic and be surrounded by loved ones.
And drink all the pop I could drink.