Mother spoke fondly of Memorial Day gatherings at Ft. Madison Cemetery. She would point to the tall Oak Trees at the entrance, where she remembered tables laden with food, Children reciting poems and playing music, neighbors and family members reconnecting after the long winter.
I too remember spring rituals of gathering there. Memorial Day Programs were past. But our gatherings brought together family members, picnic hampers laden with carefully prepared family favorites (like Aunt Lu's Fried Chicken and always there were Deviled Eggs), blankets laid in the shade of the big Cedar, and tools for cleaning graves. Those picnics featured food dished up on real dishes and dinnerware.
I do remember that Children were sternly instructed to stay away from stones. Adults would keep an eye out that the occasional wobbly old stones and children were secure. Nothing ever happened, but it could.
Irises and Peonies planted so carefully long before would be blooming in profusion as we went to work cleaning graves. Breezes would gently blow. Stories of the ancestors mingled with current "catch-up" on happenings of family and friends. Tears sometimes appeared. My child's mind remembers that we mostly just seemed to play in the Cemetery with no disconnection between past, present or future.
Now that we have moved back, we go to the Cemetery occasionally through the warmer seasons of the year. And yes, we do go before and after Memorial Day to clean and decorate graves. Long gone are programs and picnics.
This last year, Larry Evans was there sharing copies of his book on the Crow family history. His being there and the marvelous conversation that spontaneously occurred opened the possibility and the deep yearning for family and community connection.
Melanie suggested a Memorial Day Picnic at the Cemetery this year. I ran that by others who have family buried there and it was met by a resounding: "Yes!" This year, the Ft. Madison Cemetery Association put out their 1st newsletter and tucked inside was an invitation to the carry-in picnic.
We don't know who will come and it doesn't matter. It's about reconnecting with traditions and family which bind us together.
Special instructions included the following: Time/Date: 11 am., Sat., May 28, 2011. Location: "Under the Oak Trees" at the entrance to Ft. Madison Cemetery. Lunch: Bring a dish or dishes to share, especially old recipes traditional at this time. If that does not work, bring whatever works. After lunch for those interested, we will clean graves, especially in areas of cemetery less tended.d Bring tools and rags for such things.
Those who plan to be there are invited to bring questions, resources, pictures, stories that would have interest and connection with the Ft. Madison community. Bring lawn chairs, dishware, and beverage. Is there anyone who might like to play music (guitar, fiddle, violin, banjo)? In the event of rain the event will be held on Sunday.
And the Ancestors smile.