Memorial Day, 2015


It has been a very busy week here, starting with celebrating my birthday and ending with ‘The Wedding of the Year’.  (more about that later)  Our friend, Richard was planning it and suggested that I might like to help.  So I did.  For the wedding on Saturday, there were flowers EVERY WHERE (more about those later too).  This morning they were all being thrown away.  Nearly killed me. 

One day last week I read an article about the history of Memorial Day in The Washington Post.  It was originally called Decoration Day.  And I remember it being called that.  I also remember being hauled up to Frankfort for a picnic on the Capital Lawn followed by decorating graves in the cemetery where Daniel Boone is buried.  (It was still celebrated on May 30 then and we did get a day off from school) 

That was one of the few times of the year that we saw ‘the Margarets’.  ‘The Margarets’ were two sisters-in-law.  They had the exact same first and last name.  (you would expect that of an Italian family but this was on my Mother’s side.   The ones that came over just after The Mayflower and had lived in the Frankfort area forever.)  One Margaret, the one I think that we were actually related to, was tall and skinny.  The other Margaret was a short, dumpy woman (probably very much the same shape that I am now).  Honest to goodness, she looked like a bull dog.  Very jowly, with a sharp nose and bright eyes, glasses, always a hat, gloves, purse, and well dressed.  And she had a gravelly voice. 

I don’t think either Margaret had children, but I am certain that bull dog Margaret barely tolerated children.  Well, there I was with all my girl cousins.  There were 4 of us ‘in stair steps’  two years of age difference between each of us.  A loud noisy bunch.  I remember being excited to see my cousins and then I would realize that bull dog Margaret would be there too.  I also seem to remember that one or possibly both of the husbands of the Margarets had been killed in WWII.  So I think this was the reason that the whole extended family made a real effort to observe Decoration Day with the Margarets. 

One more note about the Margarets and then I’ll wander around to my point.  In the movie, The Help, there is a scene in a grocery store where a short, dumpy woman is standing by the frozen food counter.   That women was bull dog Margaret!  The spitting image.  The hat.  The glasses. The jowly face.  The gloves.  The shiny purse hanging on her arm.  I was screaming with laughter when I saw that.  The casting director must have known bull dog Margaret.

Now, I’ll come to the point.  Each of my parents came from a big family.  On both sides the ‘brothers’ (including my Father) went off to fight and returned safely from WWII.  Altogether the two families probably sent 10 men.  All of them returned.  So it was only on this one day of the year and only seeing the two Margarets was the point driven home to me that some men didn’t return.  As I closed out a week of celebrating I realized that it was Memorial Day and that Ben and I should do something to observe it. 

In between rain showers this morning, I gathered up just one small part of the beautiful flowers from last night’s wedding and we took them to the WWII cemetery near Foiano.  While I pulled the flowers from the car,  I thought about how in Frankfort and at Arlington National Cemetery, a stranger to me is decorating the graves of men who served who were related to me.  And I am decorating the graves of men from Canada, the United Kingdom and India all strangers to me, who did not make it home from WWII.  

On Monday, even if you don’t go to a cemetery, take a moment to think of and honor those, men and women both, who have served their country. 

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Half of the cemetery at Foiano.  (I wrote about this same place in November, 2014)

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1 Comment

  1. Jane Mirko

    That was a beautiful commentary, Martha. Thank you,

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