Even the foundation was gone when we arrived as the new owners prepared to turn a bountiful orchard and vine growing farm into a subdivision for multi-millionaires.
Fortunately, most of the plants and bushes were still living if they had spread out over the years. The bulldozer blades had spared them with a few more days of life.
Pulling the apple boxes, 5-gallon buckets, water and old newspapers out of the trunk with my shovel, we started digging starts from each plant. Joseph’s Coat Roses, Old Bush Roses, Bridal Wreath, Mock Orange, Snowballs and many other bushes were tagged as I dug the starts.
Old variety Iris of half-a-dozen colors, tulips, daffodils and even peppermint and spearmint were added to the collection. .They have all moved with us from home to home over the years. I’m convinced that my wife rearranges them in the yard as often as she moves the furniture around in the living room.
Spring has finally arrived at our home in this coldest and wettest spring in recorded history. A tour of the newly blossoming plants a few minutes ago brought back memories of Memorial Day smells from my youth. The hybrid flowers in our yard have almost no fragrance compared to the old plants.
Isn’t it interesting how a sniff of the blossom of an old Iris variety can bring back memories of sitting in the back seat of your parents car, balancing seemingly hundreds of bottles and vases full of Iris, Peonies, Babies Breath and Snowball cuttings to put on family graves on Memorial Day?
I was taken back in time almost instantly. No one in my memories still lives except myself but I can hear their voices and even remember some of the conversations at each grave in each cemetery.
The scene was of a riot of color and small flags amidst a landscape full of cut and engraved stones nestled amongst trees and bushes in quiet settings. Ladies wearing dresses, men wearing white shirts, ties and dress hats gave the scene movement.
Different groups of aunts, uncles and cousins were at each location based on the surname of the ancestors buried there.
We even brought a lunch with us to eat along the way. Memorial Day outings were a roving family reunion. Attendees faces may be the same from one site to the next or may change for a stop or two only to reappear a little later in the day.
Stories, updates, handshakes, laughter, and plans for the coming family reunion in July were constantly in the airwaves at each step. This was true not just in my family , but in amongst all of the groups of folks that I passed as I sought out the only working tap in the cemetery.
Times change. Folks have abandoned the tradition of visiting the graves of their ancestors and war hero’s now for the most part. A cruise by the same locations on Memorial Day shows much smaller attendee groups, fewer memorial flowers and more restrictive cemetery rules than in my youth.
It is a shame. As a society we loose a lot when we forget who we are, where we came from and the struggles our ancestors endured so we could enjoy the toys and free time to use them that is witnessed today.
My cemetery soft shoe was still in evidence this year although the steps were possibly less crisp and varied than they used to be. That’s ok. I can still smell the flowers of Memorial Day and remember the scenes of old to overlay current day scenes of scarcity before me at grandpa and grandma’s graves. All isn’t lost.