So. The whole reason for our trip to TX (including the fabulous vomit covered airplane ride) was for Cemetery Day. Which is a kind of weird, yet cool thing that my family and others have been doing since the American civil war.
By the end of the war, Walton Cemetery- a small graveyard in the middle of the woods in east Texas-was the resting place of sons, brothers, fathers and others who had passed on. To ensure that the graveyard was maintained, it was decided that each year on the first Sunday in June, the families would gather there to do upkeep: Make sure the headstones were taken care of, grass cut, greedy, overgrowing greenery cut back. They would spend the morning working in the cemetery, have a church service to remember the dead and then have a big picnic lunch before it got too hot.
This tradition has evolved into what it is today-and really it hasn't changed much. We got to the cemetery around 9 am and spent an hour or so looking at graves and hearing stories from the old folks who remembered who was buried there and why. My grandmother is there. And next to her grave is a plot reserved for my grandfather, for when his time comes. All of my Granddad's family (parents and 7 siblings), are there excepting his sister Aileen who is still living. We saw the grave of his little sister Flossie- who died at age three during the great depression because she swallowed a nail. We saw a graves of little babies born and died more than a hundred years ago, and the grave of my great uncle who just died last year. We saw the graves of civil war soldiers, their headstones worn and weathered from over a century in the hot Texas sun.
Around 10, we all went into the little chapel where after some singing of old timey hymns, they got down to business- no joke. We were all given a financial report of the cemetery- how much they pay the groundskeeper, how much it cost to remove graffiti some local idiots painted on a couple of headstones. How much was spent on lawn mower repair.
After the business meeting, there was a short church service. You all know that I'm not one for religion, but I'll confess, I did enjoy the singing.
The godly stuff out of the way, it was time for LUNCH and what a lunch it was. Fried chicken, potato salad, watermelon, casseroles, cookies, sweet tea...tables and tables of food. Little kids ran in the green grass under the big leafy trees, squealing and laughing while the adults crowded around tables in folding chairs and talked of Cemetery Days past, bragged about their kids, and remembered the loved ones who lie just a few yards away.
It was a somber, yet joyful day. One spent hearing stories and looking at old, weathered faces smiling down at young new ones with pride and love. It was awesome and I'm glad we went. Puking and all.