As a child, every memorial day centered on the town of Oak City where my grandfather was buried. It was the town my father, aunts, and uncles had grown up. It was the town my grandma had spent the majority of her adult life. For them it was home.
For me . . . it was home too. Though I didn’t live there (not yet) and only visited a handful of times every year. For me, Oak City was the place of four wheelers and frog catching. It was getting lost in fields of rye grass taller than me. It was the candy store, the camp fires, the moon rising over the mountains, taking walks without anyone worrying over where I’d gone and when I’d be back. It was childhood freedom.
And it was the cemetery.
We always went to the cemetery. We’d walk with grandma, taking our place in the family pilgrimage to the edge of town. Grandma always shed tears at the graveside of my grandfather. I hadn’t known him. He’d died before I was born. But I knew her, loved her, wanted to be everything she was, and if grandma was sad, then the moment needed to be respected. But I was young, and had never lost anyone I’d loved. The sadness was hard to understand even while it was being respected. I had no attachment to any of the people under the grass and stone markers. Memorial Day was festive, bright, and filled with flowers. The tears didn’t make sense.
When it was me standing at Grandma’s graveside, when one of the biggest reasons Oak City felt like home was gone.
Today–twenty years later from that time I’d been forced to say goodbye, the tears felt fresh, the wound felt new instead of scabbed and scarred over with time. My aunt had bought little plant markers for when someone plants a garden patch so they remember where they put everything. She’d also bought a ton of flowers ready for planting. She put every child, grandchild, and great grandchild along with their respective spouses that had all blossomed under the love of my grandparents on those markers and placed the markers in the flower pots.
I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight.
Grandma would have loved it.
So on this day where we honor our dead, I just want to say hello to my grandmother. Hello, and I still miss you every day.
I know I am the least consistent blogger on the planet, but it’s been a busy month. I’m finishing up a book, attending children’s school programs, preparing presentations for writing conferences, and have recently returned from New York.
New York was awesome. Aside from an absolutely terrifying subway ride with a crazy racist (is there any other kind?), the trip was delightful. Honestly, in my 38 years on this planet, I’ve never once witnessed racism and hate to that degree. I always knew it existed in the world, but it has never been so in my face before. Since it was the most frightening and ugly experience of my life (and I’m old and desensitized), you can imagine what it might have been like for my 14 year old daughter.
She wept for the lack of humanity in humans for quite a long time after we’d departed the train. It broke my heart to see her belief in basic goodness stripped from her so completely. But to my husband’s credit, he stood up for the four young men who were under attack by that horrible angry man. Since he did take a stand, he became the center of the man’s attack for the rest of the train ride. But he bore it well, and cracked the joke that he bet our daughter had never heard her dad called names like that before. It was genuinely awful and unfortunately the bright lights of the big city were dimmed just a bit.
But the rest of the trip was great. Mary Poppins was delightful, the park beautiful as ever, and the subway musicians on key and awesome. My street vendor in Washington Square who has great curry was still there and the food was worth the return trip. And really, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, it’s just fun to be with my family. Due to the recent unpleasantness regarding terrorism in NYC, security was heightened to an amazing degree. I haven’t seen that much visible policing since just after 9/11. We even had an armed escort from the coast guard while we rode the Staten Island Ferry.
My daughter said she’d be willing to go again, but only if her dad was with her.
Over the last few weeks I’ve written 100 new pages in my work in progress, which fills me with glee and a wee bit of vexation since it should be a higher page count, but I’m glad to be moving forward. Great things are on the horizon for publishing; stay tuned for more news which should be coming in the next couple of months.
And something I’ve taken away from my trip to the big city is that we all have opportunities every day to offer kindness to one another. I hope to waste fewer of those opportunities in the future, because in spite of a crazy man on the subway, I believe there is greatness in humanity. There really is.