The barbecue, the pool or the lake, fireworks or a festival, and more food with my family is the sum of my memories of Memorial Day weekends. When we were just little ones, our back yard was our whole world, week in and week out. Memorial Day was the official first day of summer in Louisiana, as in so many other places. This meant water play, but not with fancy store bought pools and toys, for we grew up in the 1950s. These were simpler times, in which we invented our own games and used what was available.
This photo of my Mother and I was taken before my younger brother was born. I’m cooling her off after a hot day of housework. That old metal tub was used to carry yard waste, garden clippings, and we kids used to bang on that drum all day when we weren’t into ordinary play. That garden sprinkler doesn’t have any moving parts! What a dinosaur! But it makes a great shower for a hot mama.
As we got older, Dad took his outdoor grilling duties seriously. He had a special technique for building the charcoal briquettes into a step pyramid, then saturating them with lighter fluid, and then waiting for the liquid to sink in. It was the waiting, he said, that made the difference. Trying to hurry the fire meant that it would burn out quickly and your food wouldn’t cook well. He was like a warrior, armed with a water bottle to knock down the flame ups and a long spatula to turn the burgers, hot dogs, or steaks. At his side was the wire brush to clean off the grill before the heat bonded the food to the wires. He seemed to know from the feel and look of the meat how done it was; this is experience.
Mom always took care of the interior or kitchen food. She made the yellow potato salad, the veggies for the burgers and hotdogs, and drinks. If we kids were super lucky, we got Koolaid made in the signature Koolaid pitcher with the eyes and the smile. Mom and Dad had sweet tea with mint pulled from the patch underneath the window air conditioner’s condensation pipe. Dad would always bring his offerings inside to the kitchen table as if they were the blue ribbon winning prizes of the state fair. We who were past hungry from the day and all our play eagerly awaited this gift.
I was sent outside once to pull a few more onions from the garden, even though it was quite dark as we prepared to eat. I knew where they were, I could feel their thin leaves in my fingers, and the tiny bulb was the same green onion shape. I washed off this produce, cut off the little roots, and put it on the veggie tray. As Dad bit into this delight, his face twisted and his eyes opened and shut tight. Hr did not die from this, but I had mistakenly pulled up some new growth flower rather than an onion.
We celebrate Memorial Day this weekend–many of us today will only have memories of family gatherings and civil celebrations. For some of us, it’s just a three day weekend to relax, travel, or do a home renewal project. My Dad was a WWII veteran, and my Mom and the others at home shared in the war effort by participating in rationing and buying bonds. The other wars before this, especially the Civil War, and all the wars that come after this, will involve people who love their families, their country, and their way of life. At some point in time, we make a peace, go home, love our families, our country, and live our life again. I hope you share God’s love around your table this weekend.