It was on a cloudy Friday afternoon that Jeanette and I headed East on routes 5&20 across the tops of the Finger Lakes to look for Memorial Day preparations. We passed through Waterloo, NY which is the birth place of Memorial Day. Their first celebration began in 1866 by decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers. It was in 1966 that Waterloo, NY was nationally recognized as the birthplace of Memorial Day (http://waterloony.com/memorial-day/history/).
When I was in High School some sixty years ago, Memorial Day in our hometown was known as Decoration Day. It was a day when the High School marching band would march from the Smithville High School to the Smithville, Ohio cemetery where a local official would give a brief speech and then the honor guard would fire five rounds in salute to the fallen soldiers. We would then march back to the High School. It was also a time when my mother and father would plant flowers on the graves of their parents who had previously died. This was a very somber time as I remember my Mother’s tears as she planted a few geraniums on the site of her Mother’s grave.
We stopped at Skaneateles, NY and I wandered through Shotwell Memorial Park. The Park has been beautifully decorated and manicured for Memorial Day. There planted under the flag were red and white geraniums – my Mother’s favorite flower.
The flowering trees – flowering cherry trees and flowering crab trees- were in full bloom and the dropped peddles gave one the sense of a flower strewn welcome as one descended down the stairs towards the lake. In the lower level of the park were stone walls covered with plaques of the names of local men and women who served in all our wars starting from Civil War time. The beautiful Skaneateles Lake serves as a backdrop scene to all those who are honored here and all who come for a visit. One can easily sense that a lot of time and effort was spend in constructing this memorial.
I don’t have any problem with our modern day celebration of Memorial Day marked by parades, car shows, cookouts, picnics, and barbecued chicken. As I see it, Memorial Day is a celebration of life itself. But do take the time to remember our soldiers who served and are serving our country, your family members who cared for you when you were growing up and anyone else who helped guide you along life’s pathway.