Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday: Decorations and folkways

I was back visiting Mom who will be 95 this month and lives in Western Maryland in a little town called Frostburg. There had been some back and forth emails amongst the cousins about who was decorating Grandma's grave and it all got ironed out, once everyone was safely and well assured that someone was taking care of Grandma. Decorating the graves of ancestors is taken quite seriously in these hills: you can't have too many flowers on a grave but too few or none at all is a big problem!

There have been some mysterious disappearance of decorations and charges of thievery by an unknown assailant. It's not unheard of for grave floral decorations to go missing, especially if they are unusual or quite elaborate and beautiful, and not properly secured. Plus, they can blow away if not tied down. And because of the penchant for the weather to take a turn to ugly with a sudden freeze mid-summer or the like, most everyone uses plastic flowers. Here in SoCal, it's mostly real flowers or nothing at all. In Frostburg it wall-to-wall plastic flowers in cheery colors! Everywhere! So, on occasion, it's actually a treat for the eye to visit the cemetery and a nice drive through can be an afternoon's entertainment!

Decoration of graves has it's official kick-off on Memorial Day, which some of the older folks still call Decoration Day, especially when they are talking about getting graves ready. Frostburg is a place where the ancestors stuck around for a number of generations and then mostly moved on for better work opportunities. That said, a number of cousins live within close driving distance to the two major cemeteries where our people are buried, and Mom still lives in Frostburg, and Aunt Betty too.

My Sis-in-law likes decorating the grave and takes it on for our branch of the family.She is always on the lookout for suitable plastic flowers. Silk is too fragile so only plastic will cut it in this region's rugged weather. Throughout the year she purchases new flowers, keeps her stash, and then assembles them into a decoration using her personal knowledge of the person, to craft an appropriate and resplendent display. She wants the person whose grave she decorates to like it. Grandma Kelly's grave decorations are always pink because that was her favorite color. My Sis-in-law is exceptionally good at making up those decorations!

In the fall the flowers of summer are retired and a more modest fall arrangement in Autumnal colors takes its place, the better to withstand the changing weather. Christmas time sees poinsettias relieving the fall arrangements. Those stay for the winter, making a bright splash of red above the white of snow, and in Frostburg there's a lot of snow. There might be a spring bouquet about Easter time, but the "big guns" of grave decoration come out for Memorial Day and are on display all summer.

Grandpop Kelly got very upset at Mom when she researched and found that his own grandfather's grave, the location of which was once thought to be unknown, was in St Michael's cemetery after all. He insisted that if that was his grave, he and his father would have cut the grass, so it couldn't have been his grandfather's grave! Case closed! No further discussion needed. (Sorry, Grandpop, it is his grave.)

Decorating the graves of ancestors ties our family together. We take pride in knowing that no one is forgotten. We know that we're connected to each other because we share responsibility amongst the cousins and make sure that every grave is covered. It's just one other activity that makes us family.

Photo at top: Mom's brother Camey and his wife Rita's grave.

Dad's grave. Got style.

Grandma and Grandpop Kelly. Since Sis-in-law took over the decorating task the motif is all pink. Sorry Grandpop, but you know Grandma always got her way.

My great grandparents. Not forgotten.

In the way-back dark woods of West Virginia is a little cemetery at Magnolia. (See blog post about a visit to Magnolia here.)  When you find it you expect to see it all over-grown and unkempt. But it's not, and this Civil War vet and family member is still honored. He died in 1861 at the very start of the war. (For a story about him click here.)
This post uses a GeneaBlogger's blogging prompt called Wisdom Wednesdays . Check them out!

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