Flowers are nice. They indicate that spring is here, winter is over and we can spend more time outside. The birds chirp, the bees buzz around and the colors are wonderful. I have memories as a child of flower gardens and ponds in them. I don’t remember much detail, except they were always fun.
We moved to the Southern Nevada Desert early on. I lived there until I left for college. I went back east from Nevada to Kansas. My flower journey has me getting married and joining into my wife’s Kansas family traditions. The flower tradition is rooted in Decoration Day.
Known to most as Memorial Day, I learned Decoration Day. My wife’s folks were quiet farm types. They had many opinions, and occasionally would even state them. Most of the time they listened. They remembered that God gave us two ears and one mouth. I have to continually remind myself of that. They taught me all about Decoration Day, by doing, not by talking.
It was a day to visit the various cemeteries and the graves of family members. You made sure the grave stone and appearance was acceptable. You didn’t wait until the actual Memorial Day. I started this when Memorial Day was May 30; not always on a Monday. That came later. You started the weekend before Memorial Day. The goal was to make sure when the ceremony started on the Memorial Day, or those from out of town came to visit the cemetery, you graves looked good.
In the yard around the house, my Mother-in-Law, Eda (Roberts) Greenfield, had lots of flowers. She had a green thumb, and could keep her African Violets blooming year round. In the first years as I learned about Decoration Day, she would have a number of jars ready. Jelly, mayo, etc. Ready meant cleaned out and covered with aluminum foil. Final preparation was to cut flowers from the farm yard and put them in the containers in water.
Then off we went. They would go to two different cemeteries. There was the Princeton, KS Cemetery. This is where the Roberts side of the family was buried. Her folks, and grandparents, and others. Then we went the other way, to the Williamsburg, KS cemetery. There were the Greenfield family members. Parents and others, including their baby son.
In time, we added more cemeteries. Last year, my wife and I visited 7 cemeteries. Three of those have been added to our list from my start, because life goes on and ends. So people I knew were buried, it was not just about people that I had heard stories about.
One of the cemeteries we added, was my father-in-law’s mother. Glenn was born in 1907, his mother, Myrtle Irene Lightle, died in childbirth in 1917. She is buried in Hall’s Summit, KS Cemetery. If you find the intersection of I-35 and US 75, (BETO Junction) south of Topeka, you are close. It is actually 5 ½ south on US 75, then 3 East and ½ south. You will see the ATT Long Lines tower before you get off 75. My brother-in-law, Paul would not find it that way. He is a Geologist by training and works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He would tell you how far is is from the Wolf Creek Power Plant. (About the same as from BETO junction.)
This grave had a large plot of flowers growing behind the grave stone. Perhaps a circle 20 feet in diameter. The few that were blooming were a pale yellow. They were Iris.
Eda always liked these ‘Flags’ as she called the Iris. This cemetery had a number of graves with Flags planted nearby. Both entrances to the cemetery were marked with plantings of Flags. Through the next few years as we drove in and out different ways, we found the country roads were spotted with Flags growing in fence lines, hedgerows and farm yards.
We could see them on this weekend before Memorial Day because they were in bloom. All the bright Yellow, Purple, and mixed colors were there. Watching them over the years gave me an appreciation for them.
Each year at Halls Summit, we would remove a few from that large circle. As we did so, more would bloom the next year. Some years just one or two Rhizomes, some years we might get 30. Last year the circle was closer to 10 feet in diameter. Those Flags have populated a lot of places. We just didn’t throw them away. They went to churchs, yards, a school that I can think of. One Boy Scout used them in his Eagle Project. I’m sure some of those have been thinned and have moved on.
So when I think of flowers, I think of Flags. I think of Road Trips, cemeteries and family.