It's Memorial Day weekend, and for me, that means it's time for my family's annual trip "down home," a very rural area in Southern Ohio where my mom was raised by my grandparents along with her brothers and sisters until she was in high school. Everyone on my mom's side of the family call that area "down home," especially my grandma, and I grew up calling the area home myself.
Some of the best Memorial Day weekends were when I was young, and my mother's entire, and I mean entire, family would gather at Fort Hill, one of our state parks here in Ohio. We'd eat grilled hamburgers or hot dogs, visit with each other, and enjoy how beautiful it is down there. I'd get to see all of my aunts, uncles, cousins; my grandpa's siblings, their spouses, and their kids...there were so many relatives to see and catch up with that it was hard to believe how big my family was!
My sister and I barely ate anything so we could go play with all of our cousins. :D There were creeks to wade in, trails to hike, a giant open field to play baseball, and a little museum with the history of the area. One of my favorite memories about the museum before they renovated it was the statue of a Native American standing next to a deer.
After the reunion at the park, we would then go to the cemetery. Back then, I only remember placing flowers on the graves of my grandpa's parents and my grandparent's twin babies, Jackie and Judy. I liked looking at all of the flags decorating the veterans' graves--each flag was brand-new and some families had a special holder specifically for the flag.
Several years ago, my family stopped going to the reunions. Now, when I take my own family down home, we stay in a cabin about a half hour drive from the cemetery. No Internet, not many cable channels, no cell phone service...I like getting away from all of it for a couple of days. :) I'm obviously addicted to technology, but it's nice to take a break from it, too. I need to pay some attention to the beautiful outdoors, too! :D
Now I place the flowers on the graves of my grandpa, grandma, and mom. My grandpa gets his own flag for his service in World War II. Since it's a bit of a trip to the cemetery, this is the only time of year we visit the graves there. Once we start to see the hills, I feel closer to my mom and grandparents--it's where they lived for a long time before I was ever thought about.
It isn't all sad, though. Every year we stay at the cabins, and I realize we're creating memories my two children will look back on and cherish just as much as I relish my own childhood memories. And that is what will keep me going on this bittersweet trip we're about to take.