Archive for Thursday, May 22, 2008

Memories of days, people gone by are worth listening to

May 22, 2008

In my mind, Memorial Day and Mother's Day are inextricably tangled. They both occur in the merry month of May, and they both ask for some reverential thoughts.

Of course, it doesn't help that my siblings and I once blundered by purchasing a lovely wreath meant for decorating gravesites as a Mother's Day gift. We were elementary school-aged. I, as the senior sibling in charge, went with my brother and sister into what was then called a five and dime to spend our allowances on a present for our mother. There among the usual ticky-tacky merchandise was, to our eyes, a lovely fake flower-adorned wreath. We knew that she loved brightly colored flowers so we stood around the wreath unified in our thoughts. Then, the proprietor of the store came over to help us. She found out we were there with money admiring the wreath. We looked up to her as lost as any lambs could be and asked, "How much is this? We want a present for our mother." Sales were really great in that store, so I suppose I should forgive her, but she was as sly as any fox.

"I think your mother would love that wreath," she said, sealing our fate. We left with our lovely gift-wrapped package to wait the big moment when our mother would see our wonderful present. Needless to say, Mother's expression was a bit perplexed, and she mumbled something about having to visit the five and dime and have a chat with the proprietor. As mothers always do, she thanked us for the gift, but somehow we knew that it had all gone awry.

As one could deduce, our family didn't do much decorating of graves. We had plenty of family buried in the vicinity, but we seemed to mostly remember those who had passed on to the other side by telling stories about them - stories that were sometimes funny and sometimes sad, but always based on personal recollection and memories.

Any time we all gathered around a dinner table or in a room after a meal, the stories began. We children didn't add much to the collections simply because we hadn't lived long enough to accumulate many memories, but we soaked up all the tales, enough to make the people in the stories come alive to us. Perhaps, the tradition of talking around the table and in the evening has today given way in the present day of holiday dinners spent around the warm glowing spectacle of sports on the television, but I like to think that there are times when we all can relax and talk about our memories and dreams in the presence of our young ones.

Sometimes, I know that I tell the same story so often that I can visibly sense the heavy sighs of some of my family as they endure what seems to be a neverending rendition of family history. But on the other hand, I can almost guarantee them that someday they will be telling it themselves or wish they could remember it well enough to do so.

I wish so often that I had elicited more details from both my own family and from my husband's family. If I could time travel just to the point where I first heard the stories, I would like to do so. I would have, for instance, asked more about my father's Uncle Lev,i who worked for us sometimes in the summer and more about his whole family. I would have asked my mother-in-law more about her grandparents. In fact, even though I hold many memories, it's the "ones that got away" that intrigue me.

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