Sunday, May 27, 2012

Observing Decoration's Day / Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend brought out the first of the summer tourists to the beach this weekend.  Even though they were predicting bad weather, the tourists still took advantage of having a long weekend and hit the roads for the start of summer.  The restaurants are a little more crowded and the traffic is a good bit heavier.  And the weather has been nice with the tropical storm Beryl staying off the Carolina's coasts and moving on down to Florida.

With so many people about, you would think that Memorial Day was an annual observance as the official start of summer when in actuality it is a much different observance.  It is a federal holiday in the United States on the last Monday of May for remembering men and women who have died while serving the the US Armed Forces.  It was originally known as Decoration Day and was started in the South to honor the fallen Confederate soldiers by decorating their graves in small family cemetaries.  Most of the observances were held in May - probably because of the availability of flowers to decorate the graves. It is believed that this practice began even before the end of the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the "memorial day" idea.

 It was first officially observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. 

I have a friend who is originally from the mountains of North Carolina, and each year she returns to her family cemetary on Memorial Day weekend and decorates all of the graves of her family and extended family members.  It's more often still a tradition in the mountain areas than in other areas of the South.  Most of Mary's family gets together and celebrates with a family re-union on this weekend with a picnic on the grounds of the cemetary spread out on blankets and tablecloths. Her family members travel many miles to make this pilgrimage each year.  It's nice to have traditions like this.
No matter what the reason for the Memorial Day observance, no matter where it started or what it was called, no matter what country you are from - take a moment on Monday to remember the men and women who have given their lives so that you and I can be free.  Blessings....

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mother's Day Re-visited

I tried to do a happy post for Mother's Day, really I did.  And I really am happy each Mother's Day.  I love going to church on this Sunday and watch mothers - the new with their toddlers to teenagers - and the older ones with adult children home from far away places.  I see the smile on a young mother's face as she holds her children just a little bit tighter and is a little more tolerant of their fidgety behavior on this day.  I see the joy on the faces of the older mothers as they beam with pride to have their children and grandchildren at her side.  I am one of those.

I love spending the afternoon with my two daughters and their families and watching the love and laughter in their homes.  I marvel at what wonderful mother's they are - each of them adored by their own children.  I always enjoy the thoughtful gifts my girls give me and the sweet conversations that we share.  It reminds me of the sweet conversations I shared with my mother.  I am proud of the men that they've married who treat them with love and respect.

But my happiness on this day is always tinged with sadness.  A nagging little sadness that has defined each of my Mother's Days since 1988.  Was this the first year that I lost my mother?  No, she passed away three years earlier.  I wrote this story last year and posted it on my blog, but since this story not only defines my Mother's Days, it also defines who I am, I will re-post it below.  No Mother's Day ever ends without this story being forefront in my mind.  And those of you who have read this before, please bear with me as I re-visit it once again.

A re-post from Mother's Day, 2011 - May 8th

The kiss of a Dad on Mother's Day

Today is May 8, 2011 - Mother's Day.  Mother's Day also fell on May 8th in 1988 and on less than a handful of May the 8th's since.   I remember that year well.  My girls were thirteen and nineteen and I had been hearing sounds of pots and pans and laughter as I lay in bed trying to catch a few more winks of sleep.  Ahh, the sweet sounds of breakfast in the making.  The phone rang and I picked it up on the second ring knowing who was on the other end.  Mother's Day was a lonely, sentimental day for my Dad, having lost my mother, his wife of sixty years three years earlier - the mother of his seven children - his best friend.

"Good morning, Daddy", I said, without even waiting for him to say anything.  He laughed, thinking it was funny that he didn't have to identify himself.  "Can you come over and help me pick your mother's peonies to put on her grave this morning?".  "Sure", I said, "can I wait until I have breakfast?", but knowing full well what he would say.  "Come on now, if you don't mind.  You can eat breakfast later".   At eighty-five, Dad had earned the right to ask pretty much what he pleased.

I quickly dressed, told the kids to put breakfast on hold and drove the mile to my Dad's farm.  As we cut the peony stems, we talked about mom and how much we missed her.  We talked about her love of flowers and how she especially loved peonies and enjoyed sharing the tubers each Fall with her friends so they could enjoy their own come Spring.   I arranged them with other greenery in a large metal flower basket that Dad had saved from Mom's funeral flowers.  They did look lovely as we placed them on Mom's grave at our church a few minutes later.   Dad and I shared a few tears as we held hands and prayed over Mother's grave, all the while imagining her smiling down at us from heaven.

A couple of hours later we all sat in the family church pew and shared worship together.  Daddy gave my girls their customary juicy fruit chewing gum and a kiss, and then turned to give me a kiss and wish me a happy Mother's Day as we left church.  "Girls, be good to your mother", he said.

That was the last kiss I ever received from my Dad.  He was killed in a car accident the next day, May 9, 1988.  Mother's Day always holds bittersweet memories for me.  A day when I celebrate my memories of my beautiful mother and a day that I mourn the loss of my sweet Daddy.   A few month's back, I found my youngest daughter's first Bible on a bookshelf in the library.  I opened it up and tucked away in it's pages was a piece of cellophane with something flattened inside.  It was labeled "the last piece of chewing gum Grandpa Carter gave me".  My girls had loved their grandpa with all their heart.  I left it where it was, closed the Bible back up, and cried - wishing we could all hold his hand and pray one last time.  But then I smiled as I imagined the two of them, holding hands in heaven still sharing the love they had here on earth for over sixty years.  Happy Mother's Day Mom.... and Daddy, please take good care of your best friend.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Lowcountry Feast for Four

**Warning - the sight you see may be offensive to seasoned tablescapers. Posting about this meal was an afterthought. 

Monday I wrote about our weekend at the coast and some of the local seafood available at one of our favorite places to buy it.  After visiting the Old Ferry Seafood House, we decided to do our own version of the Lowcountry boil.  There's a time and a place for paper plates and a roll of paper towels and this was it.  Tablescaping in the most casual of ways.  That afternoon the weather was perfect and a brisk ocean breeze was blowing as we enjoyed our feast on a vinyl tablecloth on the picnic table.  No fancy dishes needed as you can see!

Hubby, brother-in-law and nephew were all digging in.  I decided I had better hurry or it would all be gone. 

Linking my paper plate feast to Tablescape Thursday @ Between Naps on the Porch.  Visit Susan over there for some really fine tablescaping.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Beachy sort of Day

Ah - Coastal living where the brisk sea breeze and sound of the ocean lull you into a hypnotic state where time seems to fly away on seagulls' wings.  Time passes too quickly anyway for those of us past fifty.  Where did they go - those years between fifty and sixty - seems like just yesterday I was forty-nine and then somewhere along the line I hit sixty without even knowing what hit me.

We've opened our seasonal business at the coast again and will pretty much be here for the summer from now on.  It's a long weekend business, so we'll be doing some traveling back and forth which makes time fly by even faster.

We don't work on Sundays, so it's normally a travel day, but we stayed an extra day over this weekend so hubby could go out on his brother's boat today.  Yesterday, we spent a leisurely day just taking in the sights and scents of some of our favorite places.  There's nothing like the smell of the ocean breeze with a hint of salt, seaweed and wet sand.  And of course there's the seafood houses where shrimp boats come in with their catch of the day.  Normally by the time shrimp and fish get to your supermarket, the smell is rather unpleasant, but it's much different when it's fresh off the boat.  One of our favorite places to hang out in our brief moments of leisure time is the Old Ferry Seafood House on the Inter-coastal Waterway at Holden Beach, NC.   The owners are Phil and Anna Robinson - some of the nicest people you've ever met.  If you want fresh local seafood while you're visiting the beach, this is where to buy it.  You'll usually find Anna sitting on the dock with pole in hand and line in water waiting for a flounder to nibble his way into her fish cooler.  Here's a few photos:

A boat tied to the dock

A zoom-in look across to the island side of the waterway at an abandoned seafood house.

The shrimp boats have come in for a day of rest.

The dock side of Old Ferry Seafood.  You can also buy bait for fishing here.

A look up through the workings of the shrimp boat

Anna even prepares and puts on ice the makings of a clam & shrimp lowcountry recipe so all you have to do is put it on the grill.   Nice to have a ready-to cook seafood concoction without having to prepare it yourself.

Here's Anna at the counter / seafood cooler ready to fill your order.

A view out of one of the porthole windows in the seafood house

A bin full of seashells

Aren't these colors peachy beachy keen?
Their guard dog - a sweet little cocker spaniel that just patters ever so softly around on these beautiful clean floors.  I've never seen this place any other way than spotless!
It was a nice day - we went down to the beach and waterway to see the unusually high tide that accompanied the spectacular lunar event - the Super Moon.  We looked the minnow traps and found a few for fishing today and then topped the day off with our guests that arrived on Sunday - hubby's brother and nephew, having a fantastic dinner of a lowcountry boil that included some shrimp we had in the freezer, clams we bought from Old Ferry, fresh corn, new potatoes, Andouille sausage and onions.  A true feast we had - eaten out on the picnic table.  I'll post those pics and the recipe tomorrow.