Decoration Day

Back in the "olden days," Memorial Day was called Decoration Day ~ at least in our neck of the woods. Mother really went all out in seeing that family graves were decorated. Weeks before Decoration Day ~ always on May 30th, no matter what day of the week it was ~ she bought oodles of crepe paper and wire for making flowers and wreaths. Back then, crepe paper came in a size similar to that of tissue today except that it was several feet long. Mother taught Lena and me how to cut out shapes for petals and leaves. We cut multiples of them and then carefully took them apart. They were then stretched in a certain way that made them look like actual petals and leaves.

Once we did all our cutting, the fun started. First, a wire was cut to the length of the stem of the flower then a "bud" or middle was put on the end of the wire. After that, we started building the flower one petal at a time. When the flower ~ usually a rose ~ was the size we wanted, the bottoms of the petals were wired and we covered the stem in green paper adding leaves as we went down the stem. We also made rosebuds and several other flowers. I still remember getting that ink from the crepe paper all over my hands. It was painstaking work but we never tired of it. In addition to single long-stem flowers, we also made wreaths.

The forms for our wreaths were wire clothes hangers that we made into circles. They usually looked a little cygoglin but the flowers covered any flaws. The next step was the waxing. We melted paraffin wax in the top of the double boiler. When it got just right ~ Mother knew when ~ the head of the flower was quickly dipped in the hot wax, the excess shaken off and the flower put in a mason jar to dry. In no time at all, we had flowers almost everywhere! Wax was melted in a huge kettle for dipping the wreaths and other large arrangements. Lena and I used to let some of the wax get on the first joints of our fingers and had fun trying to pull a wax impression off in one piece. I don't know if he will admit it or not, but Junior made some nice flowers too.

When Mother couldn't get to Kermit to decorate the graves of her family, we mailed huge boxes of our homemade flowers and wreaths to them and they placed them on the graves come Decoration Day. They could afford real flower arrangements but I think ours were just as pretty.

No, they weren't expensive but our flowers and wreaths were true labors of love. When we went to decorate the graves, the fresh arrangements from the previous year were dead but our little waxed, crepe paper flowers still looked pretty good. As I grew older, I couldn't see the use in decorating graves ~ and still can't ~ but respect those who do. I still stand by the old saying of giving me flowers while I can enjoy them. Mother loved doing it and we loved helping her because she was our Mother!

Junior and Jason have cared for our parents' graves for many years and I really appreciate their efforts. I know that it is their labor of love. Virginia always gets Faye to make beautiful flowers and Junior takes pictures after the clean-up and decorating is done. Junior told me that Asa is going with him this year and I know it's his way of seeing that the tradition is carried on after he's gone. Fine man, that brother of mine. Comes from hardy stock!

Kathleen McCoy Eldridge
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"Till We Meet Again"
Sequenced by Frank "Grandpa" Schober
Used with Permission