That's what I grew up calling this day that holds some of my best memories.
Early in the day cutting all the peonies and then wrapping them in wet newspaper and loading them in the trunk of the car.
Filling jugs with water and searching for enough containers to hold the flowers for the graves. Sometimes we got really fancy and covered tin cans with aluminum foil.
Family coming "home" from as far away as Cincinnati!
Starting at the family cemeteries, clearing the graves of all the collected debris from the winter, pulling weeds from around the grave markers and digging small holes on the grave to hold the tin cans so they wouldn't tip, while hearing all the stories about Aunt America, Aunt Van (Savannah), and Uncle "Oat" (Otto) and their hardscrabble lives on farms in southern Ohio.
Hearing Uncle Bill retell the story of my great-grandmother moving her 5 children from town to a little house over the hill from the cemetery when her husband was killed in a horrible steel mill accident. She could have a garden, chickens and a cow and feed her family.
And every year I would hear the story of Bill Goodman, a young cousin of my mother's who was raised in her home as a brother. Their last memory of him was 1943, waving goodbye as he walked down the road on his way to town to join the Army. He was killed in the Battle of the Bulge, December, 1944. They still half-expected to see him walking back up that road.
Picnic dinner on the hill at the Fallen Timber Cemetery, the resting place of my maternal grandfather's people, with the creek that was good for wading. Asking to hear again the story of how Gramps' mother was killed in a house fire when he was a baby, leading to his adoption by a neighbor family because his father couldn't raise a baby and a young daughter by himself.
Finally we'd leave the country and visit the town cemetery which wasn't nearly as interesting but all the graveyards shared one thing; the rows and rows of American flags.
I love you, Dad.
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