Decoration Day always a favorite

Published 12:19 am Saturday, March 26, 2016

The wisteria bush in my front yard has triumphed over an uninvited invading bush right in the middle of it. Despite my fears it might not bloom, the plant is alive and well, adorned with its scented white blossoms. On my street, azaleas are in bloom, as are neighbors’ dogwood trees and other glorious spring plants. I expect that while my camellias fade away and those other harbingers of spring, lovely Japanese magnolia blooms, give way to greenery, my ever-late dogwood trees will break forth with their own springtime show.

Am I proclaiming the season a bit too early? While we have had conditions that I heard my grandparents call blackberry winter, are we in for another cool spell before it is truly spring? With it there comes a cool snap or two, low threatening clouds, tornados, and sometimes enough rain to cause rivers and springs to overflow their banks. I can only leave the answer to the experts while I dream on about my favorite time of year.

Every spring, my parents and our relatives observed Decoration Day at a country church in central Alabama. It involved an all-day visit with a picnic spread under large shade trees and a big grassy field where we children romped, played games, and picked wildflowers. We walked a well-beaten path to drink icy cold water from a spring at the foot of a hill. Our walk down was fun and pleasant. The climb back to the field seemed a far piece longer after two or three trips back and forth.

Sometime during that day, my cousins and I walked through the church cemetery where most graves were heaped with fresh flowers. We paused along the way to read the tombstone inscriptions and looked for any of our family names.

Decoration Day was the only time the large family crowd got together except for a funeral. It gave the adults time to catch up on their personal news. They discussed marriages, births, deaths, accomplishments, hopes and dreams. During my teen years, my cousin Betty (two weeks older than me) and I slipped away to a private place to share our secrets. We discussed what was happening at school and shared stories about boys we liked. One older male cousin observed us as we sought privacy. He guessed what we were discussing. “Those two have more secrets than the war department,” he joked.

Some of my cousins lived in the area near the church. They were acquainted with about everybody there. They spent a lot of time shaking hands with the men, trading yarns, and hugging the ladies. While most of our other relatives just socialized with each other, a few of them took time to go inside the church to enjoy an hour or so of the all-day singing.

It has been years since I observed Decoration Day. But the memories are so vivid, I am glad I still keep springtime with Decoration Day in my heart.

Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.