It’s a short PopCulteer this week as your loyal correspondent doesn’t really have much to say.
It’s Memorial Day weekend, and while there is a ton of stuff happening in and around Charleston, this is a holiday weekend that doesn’t really affect me that much. Let me explain.
When I was growing up, Memorial Day always meant traumatic and stressful running around for my family. My aunts and uncles and grandmother all had family buried all over the state. They were all hung up on going out ech year and decorating the graves. it was a major family obligation. The graves absolutely had to have new (plastic) flowers every Memorial Day, even though we didn’t have a lot of military folks in the family. By the time I came along the holiday had evolved from its original intent to honor veterans and had turned in a generic “honor all dead folks” day, an economic stimulus for florists and Chinese plastic flower factories.
While this was an obligation that my aunts and uncles were intent on keeping, they always had other things to do, so my dad and mom wound up doing the bulk of the Memorial Day heavy-lifting, and that meant picking up flowers in Dunbar to take to Clarksburg, taking my non-English-speaking and very excitable grandmother with them, getting flowers in Clarksburg to take to Shinnston, hitting up the florist in South Charleston to get flowers for the graves at The London Cemetary, buying supplies to make the flower arrangements for the vases in the Mausoleum at Cross Lanes…you get the picture.
My entire extended family felt an obligation to honor the dead, but they were perfectly happy to delegate that obligation, so it fell to my parents to do all the work. Rather than an obligation, my parents felt, deep-down inside, that it was a waste of time and money and also a huge pain in the ass.
As my parents apporached the ends of their lives, they made me and my brother and sisters promise that we would never put flowers on their graves and that we would end the nonsense of driving hundreds of miles to decorate the graves of people we’d never even met.
They basically granted us Memorial Day Amnesty so that we will never have to take flowers to any of our ancestor’s graves again. I still consider this one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me. They so hated doing the whole graveyard shuffle every Memorial Day that it would have been an insult to their memory to carry on this grand and wasteful hypocritical tradition.
Thus, free from such inane obligations, I get to enjoy a long weekend, and think fondly of my parents, instead of griping about having to run around throwing money away on plastic flowers and visiting with dead people that, in some cases, I didn’t really want to visit while they were alive.
The best way to celebrate the memories of those you love is by living life the best you can and quietly thanking them for their part in making you who you are. It means way more if you do this while they’re still with us. Plopping plastic flowers on their graves is pretty much an afterthought for most people. If it makes you feel better, then do it. If you think it makes them feel better, somebody needs to explain this whole life/death thing to you.
Ultimately, spending time with the people you love, either at a cookout or watching cars drive around in circles or whatever, is a better way to celebrate life than trudging around decorating graves.
Yesterday I posted my weekly graphic rundown of Stuff To Do in town, but I forgot to mention The Vandalia Gathering. The Gazette-Mail has a great article by Bill Lynch that runs down the details of this terrific annual event. I’ve always had fun when I’ve stopped by The Vandalia Gathering, but while it is very high-quality music and entertainment, much of it is not really my cup of tea, so I’ll likely give it a miss again this year. That doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy this free festival that celebrates mountain music, old-time storytelling and rustic crafts. If that sounds good to you, by all means head to the State Captiol grounds this weekend. This is a jam-packed weekend to unofficially kick off summer in Charleston, and there’s always more to do here than some folks care to admit.
Check back for our regular features here in PopCult, because we never really rest, even on a nice lazy weekend like this one.