Of Parades and Picnics

When I was young, my mom would pack my brother and I up as soon as school was out and off we’d head to Minnesota and the farm.  We’d spend the whole summer there, visiting relatives, helping out on the farm, renewing friendships, and leading a very carefree life out on the prairie.  In the meantime, my poor dad, bless his heart, kept the home fires burning in Michigan, working away in the auto factory for General Motors and finally taking two weeks off towards the end of summer to take the train or bus out to join us to drive us all home.

Every Fourth of July, Mom, my brother, grandmother, and I had a set routine that we followed.  First we’d head over to Leota, Minnesota to see the big parade.  Grandma would pack lawn chairs in the car and a jug of cold water or kool-aid (if we were lucky) and we’d set out early so we could claim a good piece of territory along the main street of town.  Mom ALWAYS had to take a picture of every float, band, and horse that went by.  You’d think with all those years of taking pictures, I’d be able to find one now but I can’t so they must be all over at my brother’s house (lucky him!).

After the parade, we then had to make the rounds of the cemeteries to visit all the graves of our relatives who had passed on.  This was the part that I hated the most as a kid.  I will say that it got a heck of a lot more interesting as the years went by.  There was the time that my mom and my aunt were both in the early stages of dementia and were trying to direct me via rural back roads to the cemeteries.  Neither one could agree where I should turn off and finally I just pulled over and consulted a map and made the decision for them.  My aunt insisted I was wrong until I drove through the very town that she said shouldn’t be there.  “Hmph, well then they must have moved the dang town,” she declared.

Or there was the time that we were at one family cemetery out in the country and one of my aunts, looking down at another aunt’s grave marker, said,  “She was an ornery SOB and a tightwad and I always said that one day I’d piss on her grave and I think today’s the day.”  At that point, she dropped her drawers and did just that.  Now we were WAY out in the country with no one else around but I was in shock and just standing there with my mouth open.  Mom and my aunt started to giggle, my aunt grabbed her drawers and they both walked off to the car.  I knew then that our relationship had moved on to a new level.  I was no longer the little kid tagging along.  Heck, maybe THEY were the little kids now.  Boy, I couldn’t wait to tell my brother and my cousin THIS story!

After the cemetery rounds, we’d head back to the farm and wait for the relatives to trickle in.  By late afternoon, we’d usually have a picnic set up behind the farmhouse.  Aunt Louise usually brought fresh raspberries freshly picked from her bushes and someone would be churning ice cream.  Grandma always had some of her great potato salad made up along with deviled eggs.  Yummy!  There might be fried chicken or chicken salad sandwiches.  No matter what was outside, it was always a feast.  We cousins would hurry through our meal and then head over to the side yard for a game of baseball.  Some years, my Uncle Homer, a private pilot, would fly overhead and buzz the farm, much to the delight of all.

After the meal and cleanup, my mom would drag out her camera and set it up and the family photo session would begin.  As much as we protested, it was inevitable and the only one who escaped the tedium of posing in family groupings was my grandpa.

He’d find a nice shady spot under a tree and take a nap.  When I think of Grandpa, I either remember him napping outside, feeding the cows, or playing cards with his friends.

Eventually the coffee pot would be put on and folks would migrate around the kitchen table as the sun faded and the adults would start to swap stories.  My cousins and I would wander into the next room and flop down, too worn out to bicker but not too tired to hope that we might hear some juicy gossip before the adults realized we were within hearing distance.

Those are the memories I’ll be returning to as we celebrate our nation’s birthday tomorrow.  How will you be celebrating?

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Hot Flashed Funk

  • What great memories from your childhood! The one about your aunt at the cemetery is priceless! Have a great Fourth of July!

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