Six children, of which my Mom Marie was eldest, honored our dead-and-gone with peonies on Memorial Day. We cousins, children of the six, took this opportunity to act up as much as the ritual allowed.
The ritual was a caravan of cars smelling like perfumed leather visiting two cemeteries in Chicago’s western edge for the better part of a Saturday. When the cars parked near our tribe’s gravestones, we kids erupted from backseats like popcorn and blanketed the hushed place with pops and hoots.
My dad was the best among Uncle peony providers and I’m not afraid to say so. For several weeks prior he saved, washed and stored square milk cartons. These were the vases for the flowers. For several weeks prior to the weekend, he fussed over the peony bushes, coaxing orb buds to show their stuff, admonishing the full blown ones to settle down.
The best part among my cousins was these hours to be while our parents were distracted by memories and such that had little to do with us, since most of our dead were dead before we knew them. I think the best part for our Dad was the chance to do something helpful, very very well.