Decoration Day draws a crowd

Published 4:40 pm Monday, May 20, 2019

By Peggy Walker, R.D.

There’s a custom in West Tennessee called Decoration Day. Best I can tell it evolved from the original tradition of the ladies in Columbus, Mississippi, who “decorated” the graves of those who had died in battle. That custom eventually became “Memorial Day,” which we Americans now celebrate on the fourth weekend of May, plus a Monday holiday.

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Around here on designated weekends in May, graves in country cemeteries are decorated with colorful flowers and either donations or fundraisers are held to collect funds to help cover expenses incurred by the cemeteries throughout the year.

The neighboring cemetery’s Decoration Day was on Mother’s Day. So, this past weekend, the custodians of the cemetery property set up a tent on the side of the road as families came and went all day on both Saturday and Sunday, bringing flowers and funds.   Some even had family reunions and dinner on the grounds.

Because our church building is conveniently located beside the cemetery it is customary to forego the usual second Sunday potluck, to allow parking for the families and friends, and to leave the doors open to the foyer for access to restrooms and the water fountain. And as we’ve learned, many of the families come in for morning worship services, too.

DW and I enjoyed seeing all the comradery, hugs, and conversations between our members and the visitors with family ties and memories of this area of Henderson County.  There was a whole lot of catching up going on after the final amen. Many of the cemetery goers claim this area as home and still have family and deep roots in this area.

Last week workers mowed, trimmed, swept, and picked up faded flowers that had blown off the graves during the recent thunderstorms to prepare for the weekend’s visitors. We’re thankful that the grounds are kept very tidy all year.

Our house is close by so DW and I drive through the cemetery practically every day. It is also a very nice place to walk for fresh air and exercise, and the sunset from the highest point is beautiful. According to what we understand, no one pays for burial plots.

The land was donated to the community by a local farming family.  It appears that the families who have plots here are very appreciative and proud to have such a nice place to bury their family members and, in turn, the living participate in the cemetery’s upkeep.

Thankfully the sun was shining brightly Sunday morning which made all the flowers glow.  It was a glorious Decoration Day. I’d never seen such a large and colorful display in a cemetery.  DW drove slowly as we made our way to Sunday school avoiding all the cars and families already here. Participants were walking down the road, meandering through the headstones, and congregating at the tent. Visiting started early.

Decoration Day at our house. Grandson Mack loves to go to the church playground. Several weeks ago, DW took him to play while I cooked supper. We had rain and rather strong winds that week so plastic flowers were strewn all over the road side.  Mack quickly spied an opportunity. He came home with an armload of flowers, picked just for me, because he knew “how much his GiGi loved flowers”.

So, for a couple of days I had vases of faded cemetery flowers on the kitchen table and coffee table. Dear Mack was so very proud of his gift to me, what could I do but thank him and put them on display, that was until it became evident that spiders love artificial cemetery flowers, too.

So now, DW and I help out with the cemetery upkeep by collecting flowers that have blown off the graves and putting them in the receptacle for discarded flowers so they won’t find their way to my kitchen table.  It’s the thought that counts.

Decoration Day, a lovely thought and time-honored event.

Recipe of the Week

Country Style Strawberry Shortcake

It’s also strawberry picking time in West Tennessee!

1-quart fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

½ – 1 cup sugar for strawberries

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ cup cold unsalted butter + more for pans

1 large egg

½ cup milk or cream, plus slightly more

Melted butter

1 cup whipping cream

Place strawberries in bowl, add sugar per taste; set aside. Stir occasionally. Butter 2 8-inch cake pans. Sift flour, baking powder and sugar into large bowl. Blend butter into flour with pastry cutter until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. In a small bowl, beat egg and stir in milk. Drizzle liquid over flour mixture; add a little more milk as needed to make dough stick together. Turn mixture onto lightly floured board, shape into a ball. Do not overwork. Cut ball in half, shape into 2 discs with well-floured hands. Press each disc into a prepared pan. Bake in middle of preheated 425-degree oven for 12 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Remove to wire racks, brush with melted butte; let cool.  Prepared whipped cream and refrigerate. To serve: place first cake on serving plate; top with half of the strawberries. Place other cake on top; spoon on remaining berries. Top with whipped cream. Serves 6.