Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Memorable Memorial Day

Way out in the middle of nowhere, on the top of a steep mountain up which no vehicle can drive, lies a cemetery.

And in that cemetery is the grave of my grandmother.

I was 15 years old the first time I ever visited this cemetery. My great-grandfather died and he too was buried here. They used a crane to hoist the coffin up the mountain-side, and we all hiked up. The place had the charm of a bygone era... with its smattering of old graves, many of which were marked with nothing but a rock with no way to know now who was laid to rest in that place.

We've been out there two or three times since then, and each time we had an incredibly difficult time finding the spot. I got smart the last time we went, and drew a map, marking clearly each turn with its landmarks.

So out we went, my brother and sister and I, along with Little Girl and Baby Boy. I drove the lead car and my brother followed, and confidently we took turn after turn using the map I drew several years ago on our last visit. Everything was going well when we reached a fork in the road. We were waiting for a particular "street sign" which was put up when 911 was put into the county and everyone had to be assigned a "street address." The sign itself cracked us up as the road name was "Left Fork Johnson's Fork Little Ann Creek Road." Yes, this was all on one of those green street signs.

But here was a fork, and we hadn't yet reached that sign. We hesitated. "Left," my sister said. "I'm sure we go left." I turned left skeptically but we both breathed a sigh of relief as the first house came into sight around the bend. "That house looks familiar!" we both exclaimed in relief.

But I still wanted to see the map and make sure we were on the right track and try to figure out how this turn had come about that we weren't expecting. So I pulled into the driveway and my brother pulled in next to me. We rolled down our windows.

"We're almost there," I told him. "I know we're close, we just aren't positive which way to go because that fork isn't marked on my map."

"I know we're going the right way," my sister kept saying. "I KNOW we are. She won't trust me."

Meanwhile my brother is exclaiming, "We're in somebody's DRIVEWAY! We're at somebody's HOUSE!" I wasn't terribly concerned about that...

So we kept driving. Long story short, we drove way out that road, then came back and tried the other fork, and then came back to try the first fork again, figuring we must not have gone far enough.

Just as we approached that same driveway that had initially upset my brother so much, my sister says, "WAIT! Isn't that the barn that says HOWDY on it!?"

Sure enough, the final landmark, the HOWDY barn, was right there, with the letters nearly worn away which is why we'd not noticed it before. No wonder that house looked so familiar to us both, and nothing farther on did. THAT was the place!! The street sign we were looking for must have been pulled down.

I quickly pulled right back into that same driveway and we were laughing so hard, wondering what on earth my brother must be thinking to see us turn right back into that same spot.

We got out, laughing -- in the pouring rain, mind you, not the best weather for a cemetery visit on top of a mountain, but we couldn't help that -- and explained to him that this was indeed the place. And then we began the climb.

After crawling under the tree that blocked the path, I turned around and took this shot. I think you can make out our cars parked at the bottom of the hill, which gives you some idea of how ridiculously steep this climb was. And we weren't quite halfway there yet. :)

At last we reached the cemetery. The kids had a wonderful time exploring. They planted flowers at our grandmother's grave and picked daisies from the surrounding woods to lay on other graves.

Their friends were having picnics and pool parties and parades. But in our family, Memorial Day has always been a day to visit the cemeteries and decorate all of the family graves.

Family traditions handed down from previous generations are what memories are made of. I think our kids had a better day than their friends. What do you think?

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