"Always Lilacs and Fruit Jars
condensed from GOING HOME AGAIN
An Award-Winning Author's Best-Loved Stories
|At home in Darrington|
The spring had been unusually cold. Most of the flowers were long delayed in blooming. Very little color brightened our large, old-fashioned yard. Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) lay just ahead. How could we decorate the graves of our loved ones who had gone on ahead?
“There are always lilacs,” Mom told us.
"What can we put them in?” my brothers and I asked.
Mom smiled. “Fruit jars, of course.” She showed us how to carefully break long branches from our abundance of lilac bushes and wrap them in wet newspaper for the long journey to the cemeteries, where we would fill the fruit jars with water.
Year after year, always lilacs, always fruit jars. Sometimes we had snowballs or a few early roses hardy enough to survive our often-harsh western Washington winters, but we could depend on the lilacs, great purple sprays of bursting buds.
Many of my earliest childhood memories center around those Decoration Days, a time to honor fallen military heroes but also a day of respect and appreciation for those who had lived their lives courageously, fought the good fight, and triumphantly marched on. There was nothing morbid; it was a time of joy for family and friends. The small, mountain-ringed cemetery bordered with towering trees in our home town of Darrington was ablaze with flags on veterans’ graves. So was the larger cemetery a couple of hours drive away where we met other relatives.
After the graves were decorated and we “visited” with all the former family members, friends, and those who died for our country, we went home with relatives and enjoyed a potluck dinner and an afternoon of fun. Then we climbed back into our old car for the long trip home over wash-board roads that had never known paving’s touch. Decoration Day. A day of giving. A day of joy and remembering.
More than seventy years later I see mostly artificial flowers adorning graves on Memorial Day. It saddens me not to find lilacs grown in old-fashioned yards. And fruit jars, glorified by the humble bouquets that once perfumed our lives with family and faith. Thank God for memories that not only tie me to childhood, but to those who came before me
“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12, KJV).
Going Home Again
Going Home Again