So, for the past 4 years we’ve done the same thing every Memorial Day. We visited Grandpa Walter’s (my husband’s grandfather’s) gravestone in the national cemetery in Bushnell, FL. Walter didn’t die while in the service but at the ripe age of 82. We visited the cemetery on Memorial Day because we knew it was a date we wouldn’t ever forget and let slip by. Walter died the day after our oldest son’s first birthday and so none of my kids knew him but it gives us a chance to talk about how dear he was to us and they, in return, feel connected to the story of how much we cared for him. We would discuss in very little detail the real meaning behind Memorial Day seeing as how our kids are pretty young and sensitive to any conversation about war & violence.
As things go, we obviously were going to need to change up our traditions pretty drastically having moved 3500 miles away from the cemetery that holds Walter’s stone. In the past, we would follow up a visit to the cemetery with a stop at Cracker Barrel, a game of over-sized checkers on the porch and then a way-too-long wait for food as it was one of only two restaurants anywhere near the cemetery. Unfortunately for us, not only were we not within range of Bushnell, FL but the nearest Cracker Barrel was a whopping 6 hour drive. Don’t even doubt for a minute, we considered taking that 6 hour drive.
We landed on a new plan altogether though. A pretty good one, I think. We considered going to the services at the local national cemetery here in Portland but we weren’t sure that our 2.5 year old would be able to maintain a respectful demeanor and I’d worry about disturbing other visitors. With both the cemetery and Cracker Barrel out of the question I was desperate to hang on to some remnants of the traditions we had in place already, be it as simple and seemingly meaningless as they may have been. Amazon saved the day. I ordered an over-sized checker set just like the ones they sold in the ‘Old Country Store’ at Cracker Barrel.
Still desperate to connect the dots and not lose hold of remembering their great grandfather but wanting to get a better grasp on the idea of Memorial Day I skimmed through pictures of years past and found our golden ticket. What a relief!
On Walter’s gravestone the words “Loyal, Faithful, and Generous” can be found, all of these ran deep in him. So, we made a plan. We packed a picnic and set out for a farm on Sauvie Island for some strawberry picking and a nice long chat about character. We talked in great depth about the meaning of each of these traits, where we could find them in our own lives and how we can try to grow in these areas. We talked about how Grandpa Walter lived these words and how it’s really easy to see these traits in the lives of the men and women who fell while serving our country. I so love it when all of the things come together so perfectly. The kids moved on to writing a sentence and drawing pictures to represent which word stood out to them the most. It went better than I could have imagined. Our two-year-old was even happy to scribble beside them.
Next we surprised them with that checkers set and their reaction was better than I could have hoped for. They’re always very grateful when I bring a little bit of their “Florida life” to their present. We rounded out the day with strawberry picking, mostly because berries are red and, hello, photo op. 😉 I’m pretty excited about our day, I feel like we really nailed it and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. Now, we have some strawberry jam to make…