Saturday, May 10, 2008

Culture, Tradition, Travel

This could prove to be interesting. I just learned that I will be blogging about 3 items, those mentioned in the title above. I'm thinking I will have a lot of fun with this. Hopefully, you, the avid reader, will too. ;) And no worries, I will still be posting at least one poem a week in between everything else. (This is for my 3 fans out there who faithfully read my poetry).

I've also learned that my posts will show up in the New Neighbors section of LDSneighborhood. It is sounding like they'll have everything up and running by Monday. My blogs will be available on this site on Mondays and Thursdays.

That said, I've decided that I will touch briefly on the importance of traditions, since a huge family tradition is rapidly approaching. According to my good friend, Webster the dictionary, a tradition is "the handing down of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites, and customs . . ."

According to my family, a tradition is anything fun we do each year as we gather together. ;) We have several Christmas traditions that I will share closer to that glorious season, some things we do each summer, and toward the end of this month, we will embark on our annual Memorial Day Jaunt, something we actually enjoy. Let me share why.

My mother was taught by her mother the importance of decorating the graves of family members on Memorial Day. It was a way to show respect, and to honor the memory of those who left mortal mode ahead of us. When my grandmother died, the weighty responsibility of decorating graves fell to my mother and her siblings, something they have faithfully adhered to each year.

As a youngster, I loved the opportunity to gather with my cousins on Memorial Day and to run amuck around the cemetery. We found all kinds of treasures, interesting names on weathered headstones, bugs that some of my cousins captured to scare me out of my wits (I won't mention any names, you know who you are, and to this day when I see a spider, I scream, but I digress . . .); and a ditch we could access if we climbed over the fence around the cemetery. When our parents caught on to the fact that we were playing in forbidden water, they dragged us across the cemetery to look at the tiny headstone of a young boy. He had fallen in said ditch and drowned one Memorial Day. That's all it took for me. A chicken at heart, I faithfully stayed away from the forbidden zone from that point on.

Memorial Day took on a different meaning in 1984. That was the year my mother, siblings, and I gathered to decorate my father's grave for the first time. There we were, standing around Dad's headstone, all of us struggling with difficult emotions. Our father, who had been suffering from a rare liver disease, had taken his own life eight months earlier. Tears were threatening to make an appearance. Then it happened. Our mother said something outrageous, directed toward our father, a colorful phrase I won’t share. Suffice it to say, her comment worked. At first, we were shocked, glancing at our feisty mother who was making her way back to the car with her head held high. Then we dissolved into laughter that inspired tears. We laughed loud and long, ignoring the perplexed looks we received from other people who happened to be at the cemetery that day.

We then drove on to our mother's childhood home in Wyoming, making our first annual Memorial Day loop. It was there that we would be decorating the graves on Mom’s side of the family tree. When we arrived in Afton, we found that most of my mother’s family had already gathered at the same motel where we were staying that night.

There was strength in numbers as our mother’s siblings and their spouses and families did their best to keep our spirits light. They knew that weekend would be difficult for us, and they helped us through. We visited, we played games, and we frolicked in the motel pool playing an intense game of keep-away with a koosh ball. Through it all there was sense of camaraderie, and plenty of laughs to go around. We ate more food than is healthy, but as we sat, too full to move, we realized we had survived a holiday weekend that could have been depressing. It wasn’t, and it never has been. We have stubbornly held to the formula we discovered when a difficult holiday season appears on the horizon. Mix family members with a large dose of laughter and good food and the results will usually be the same—survival with peace of heart and mind intact.

As this year's Memorial Day season approaches, hearts will be tender as we face decorating my brother-in-law's grave, someone who passed away last month. Once again we will strive to combine reverence for those who have gone on before with a healthy dose of laughter, memories, and family fun.

It is my hope that many moons from now, when I've passed from this mortal sphere, not only will my children and grandchildren come to place flowers on my grave, they will also remember the importance of strengthening family ties during traditional gatherings like Memorial Day.

Cheri J. Crane


Anne Bradshaw said...

Lovely tradition, Cheri. Thanks for sharing.

I'd like to share something, too :-)

On my blog today, there is a gorgeous free Salt Lake Temple screen saver by photographer, David Terry.

Please help yourself, and then spread the word!

Cheri J. Crane said...

Thanks Anne. You're right, it's beautiful.