Saturday, May 26, 2012

Boating on Memorial Day

I was a teenager in the Northwest in the 1990’s. This meant that Nirvana was ruling the airwaves, plaid flannel was king, boys bathed as infrequently  as Ethan Hawk in “Reality Bites”, and all the cool kids drove little pregnant roller skate cars like Geo Metros. My mom and dad thought those cars were death traps and had something sturdier in mind for me.

Much to my dismay they were not interested in the fact that no drummer in a garage band would want to date a girl who drove a 1977 butterscotch colored, purple tinted window, Brady Bunch station wagon. 

That car could seat 9 ½ comfortably, went from 0 to 60 in 3.8 minutes, and was the size of the Titanic. My 10 year old brother could beat it in a 50 yard drag race on his bicycle. Even better than all that, and since this was before the days of cell phones, my mom could locate me at any time of the day or night by just calling around town and asking if anyone had seen “the boat”. Seriously, that's what she even called it.

The boat was a multi-purpose vehicle in my family. Besides being the teenage automobile of shame it transported freight for my dad’s business, hauled boy scouts on campouts, moved gardening materials and basically acted like a huge ugly pickup truck. In addition to all that it also transported the family on our yearly Memorial Day outing.

Mom and Dad along with their disregard for my personal popularity, also inexplicably believed that Memorial Day was a day to actually remember people who had died.

Instead of spending a fun 3 day weekend full of BBQ’s and pool parties they would load up the boat with all the kids and take flowers to everyone we had ever known that had left this earth. It was mandatory and no amount of whining or crying was going to get you out of it.

We would get up early on Sunday morning and mom would get the quart size Mason jars out of the garage, we would wrap them in tin foil and my sister and I would be dispatched to find pebbles to weight the bottoms. We would then fill empty plastic milk cartons with water and go out and cut the irises that were blooming in our yard. All of this would go in the back of the boat and then we were off like a herd of turtles to visit Mrs. Edwards to buy more flower arrangements.

Mrs. Edwards was an elderly lady who had a huge flower garden. Every year she would cut bouquets of fresh flowers and put them on shelves in her garage. It smelled like heaven in there. Dad would go into her garage, pick out 10 or 15 arrangements, and then pay Mrs. Edwards four times what she was asking for them. He was a bit of a penny pincher and so this portion of the program always mystified me.

 I didn’t realize until years later that the Memorial Day flower business was really her only income, and because she would not accept financial help from anyone, dad used it to try to make her life a little easier.

Once the back of the boat was loaded with irises and peonies, daisies and columbine, off we would go to meet up with some of our extended family at the first cemetery. Out we would pile into the cool morning air and set up a mason jar and flowers, clean the dead grass from around the headstone, dad would say a few words about the person we were visiting, get misty eyed, take a picture of everyone posed around the plot, and then we would load up and move on to the next graveyard. As we drove one of us would hold a portable radio on our lap and try to keep the antenna pointed in a direction that would pick up the Indy 500. This pattern would go on for hours. Finally, exhausted, hungry and usually with several of us in tears we would make it home and go to our separate corners, dreading the next time we would have to make the trek.

When this was going on I had never lost anyone close to me. My childhood had been free from injury of that type. I didn’t know what it was like to have loved someone and then have them move on to the other side and so the sentimentality my parents showed did not compute for me. 

Now all these years later, what I would give to load up in the boat one more time and go with dad to visit our relatives who have passed on. I would pose for the pictures and not roll my eyes, I would clean the headstones without griping, and get misty eyed as I talked about those people I love so much. I would hug him and tell him I appreciated how much family meant to him.

My little brood will be going to a pool party and BBQ this weekend and it will be fun. And though we are 1500 miles from any of the resting places of those people that are so dear I think I will take the time to tell the kids about them again. I think that we will take a virtual trip to those resting places and hopefully I can instill in my kids the same love and respect for those who have moved on before us as my mom and dad did for me.

And with David taking driver’s training this summer… I wonder where I can find a Brady Bunch station wagon?



Malachi 4:6  “ And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…”

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen a single station wagon since I moved to Utah. Everyone here seems to be so snobby about their cars...


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