One of my favorite childhood memories is hearing my Aunt Rosene's voice on the telephone asking if we were going to be home that day and hoping to "get her name in the pot". That meant she and my Uncle Otis were coming for dinner. One day of the year was the most special, though, and that was Memorial Day, or as she and Mom called it, Decoration Day. It was a time to clean off the graves after the winter and get them ready for summer. When Aunt Rosene arrived, we would cover tin cans with aluminum foil and pick the prettiest peonies we could find. Then, we would go to Hopewell Cemetery, where she and mom would reminisce about their parents, Ma and Papa Downey. As I did not know Papa, and Ma died when I was a young child, these stories were how I learned about them. I knew that Papa was tall and liked to drink a little when he went to town. Ma was superstitious and had passed that trait to Aunt Rosene. For example, if you saw a snake, you had an enemy. If you got goosebumps, someone was walking over your future grave. Mom and Aunt Rosene laughed together over their shared memories until they cried.
This year I bought the usual silk flowers for our family members...except for Aunt Rosene. I dug a clean tin can out of my recycling bag, covered it with aluminum foil and went out to my peony bushes to choose the prettiest ones I could find. I drove to the tiny Powell Cemetery where Aunt Rosene and Uncle Otis now rest and placed them among the silk flowers on her grave. I know they won't last as long as the others, but I imagined her smiling down at me for carrying on the tradition.