Special to the Tribune-Star
As a boy, I had to have an older relative explain to me that Decoration Day and Memorial Day were one and the same. Neither my father or grandfather had been in the military, but it was my mother who carried out the tradition of what she referred to as Decoration Day.
It was a day we took time to actually decorate or lay flowers on the graves of relatives who had passed on. My mother was sympathetic to the idea of decorating graves. It was almost as if she had not had time to thank her parents for all their kindnesses to her as she was the youngest child out of 10. More than just that, she was the youngest child of the final four children born to her mother. There was a 10-year gap between the first six children and the final four. On top of that, two of her siblings closest to her in age had died of scarlet fever and she, the baby of the family, survived.
So it was with a heavy heart and a deep wanting to do something nice for her fallen parents that Decoration Day was very special. A huge row of peonies grew alongside my Aunt Doris’ home and it seemed these flowers bloomed just at the right time to be used for this special day. Other of my mother’s sisters had flowers donated for the decoration of graves. At our house, the entire back yard was encircled almost as a boundary of irises. So there were lavender and white ones and, occasionally, other colors there to decorate for those who had gone before us.
None of my elder relatives on my mother’s side were very much a church-going group. Most of them did not. But like so many people of their age, they held a basic belief that God was good and Christ came to proclaim it. So remembering the people they were sure had gone to heaven was something of a celebration of life, not so much a sorrowful remembrance of their death.
Going to more than one cemetery was a bit of a hassle. Flowers in water, carrying water and some tools, and two little boys, must have driven my father slightly crazy.
All of this got finished and my parents hoped to get home in time to hear the big race. Just living north of Terre Haute and taking the Terre Haute newspapers, we knew how important the race was to Mr. Hulman and his many, many fans.
The minute we returned to the house I scrambled off to find friends and to engage in some playful activity. It was a day of flowers, my father being off work for three days, friends and play and going to cemeteries where, in retrospect, I probably did not spend enough time. Now, as the eldest child of the youngest daughter, it would almost be an impossible task to get all of those graves decorated and I hope those relatives forgive me.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.