Decoration Day

Making Memorial Day a Family Tradition

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When my grandson Dmitri was four, and I told him about Decoration Day, he thought I was talking about Christmas. He’d get excited, thinking about all the things we would do: make and hang ornaments, bake and decorate cookies, tickle, tease, and laugh as we celebrated and enjoyed a family tradition.

Decoration Day meant something else to my in-laws. Each year my father-in-law hibernated in his shop until he had dozens of little crosses to which his wife attached wreaths and flowers. The whole month of May was devoted to frequenting stores, gathering plastic carnations and roses, whatever she could find to adorn the wreaths. Early Memorial Day our extended families gathered and caravanned to graves scattered between Picabo and Shoshone where we erected the decorated crosses in remembrance. Along the way we’d stop for coffee, hamburgers, laughter, and tears.

Here in southern Idaho, Decoration Day often brings a parade of campers leaving town early Friday to get the best camping sites in the forest. To many it signifies the first three-day weekend welcoming summer with a promise of crackling campfires, roasted hotdogs, and s’mores.

Maybe Dmitri was right when he said Decoration Day was like Christmas. Camping by a stream or decorating graves, no matter what we do, Memorial Day is the perfect time to remember those we love, and celebrate the people we’ve been fortunate to have in our lives, a perfect time to enjoy a family tradition.

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