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Remembering Decoration Day

By Jennifer Moonsong, Jobe Publishing Regional Features — More than anything these days Memorial Day is seen as a gateway to summer fun. However, I am sure a few of you in the readership still remember when we called it Decoration Day.

I well remember many a Decoration Day spent riding in the back seat of a car, sticky with sweat and the windows rolled down, surrounded by silky, colorful petals destined for the graves of relatives.

When I was quite young I recall going with my father and mother through the wilds of Metcalfe, Barren and Monroe counties and beyond, down long gravel roads through high fields to old cemeteries I imagine few even know about these days. We’d visit the graves of great aunts and uncles, and with every stop there would be a story.

For example, I knew my great aunt Delpha was known for her love of cats and fried chicken. I knew that when my great uncle Charlie was just a boy, he got particularly fascinated with those new-fangled automobiles, and ran the family’s T-Model Ford through the barn doors, busting the slate. One of my favorites was about a prank my grandfather pulled on my grandmother when she was on the way to the outhouse, and he was hiding out of sight and tried to make her believe a cow replied to her quintessentially country greeting when said, “Mornin’ Cow”.

I guess we had a lot less to entertain us before Xbox and color-TV.

I also always enjoyed hearing about my great grandmother Cordelia Kittybird Smith who is buried near the Bushong community in Monroe County. Needless to say, her middle name is intriguing and our physical resemblance in old photos added to the intrigue. At her graveside, Dad always talked about her enduring jovial nature in all weathers and circumstances, and I hoped I could be the same.

In my teen years my mother and uncle Bill would take me along as they further researched our family tree on Decoration Day weekend. Hearing about the family genealogy, beginning in France, coming to America and eventually winding up in Kentucky by way of Virginia was fascinating. My uncle Bill and mother took a large binder of facts along for the ride, and though it sometimes seemed tedious to a teenage girl I also felt appreciative that they took the time to do that. I helped with making rubbings of newly discovered stones.

Looking back, the most important thing about those long sweaty weekends traveling from cemetery to cemetery was the stories.

The flowers, even the silk ones, fade in the sun and tatter at the edges. The gravestones weather and although they stand as monuments to what once was they are a pitiful replacement for the ones we love.

My father is now gone with a gravestone of his own and my mother and uncle don’t feel up to those long trips around the countryside anymore. But I still have the stories and I tell them. I write them. I keep them in my heart. I know where all the old gravesides are and I go to them, to remember. After all, it is our memories that endure.

So this weekend, as you knock the rust off of the grill and get your white shorts out of the closet, remember what this weekend is really about. Make new memories but also cherish the old ones.

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