Sunday, May 27, 2012
Now, just imagine thay you are a southern woman just after the Civil War is over. Your world, the only one you have lived and known, is gone.Life as you knew it will never be the same. There is nothing and nobody left.Your towns are demolished. Your homes are destroyed. The land is barren. You have little to eat. You haven't seen new clothes for so long, you can't remember what they look like. Your Father, your husband, your sons, your friends are all gone, many buried in far away places where you will never go, some of them where you will never even know.
The way you lived, the things you enjoyed, the gentleness of life, they are all gone. You have seen, heard, and felt things that you never would have imagined.When you go out, the streets are full of brash, rich Yankees. There are cemeteries full of your friends and your enemies. You hardly dare to go out to do your errands, to try to put some kind of a life back together for your self and your children.
One day in May, you find some flowers blooming in the rubble. Flowers always come back, even after the travesty of war. You gather them up and bring them to where your men lie sleeping. Some you have dug up, to plant, others are just cut flowers to make the graves look bright and pretty. As you kneel there with your hands stained by the red clay, you pause to look around. The Rebel graves are all cleaned and cared for. The women have not much to do, but to mourn, and care for these simple stones. Your eyes wander over to the far side of the cemetery where the Union soldiers are buried. The weeds are tall, hiding the stones. No flowers bloom. No paths criss cross the ground.
You think of your son. He sleeps in the north, far from family and friends. In your mind, you see that cemetery. That small white stone overgrown with weeds and thistles. No one to come and shed a tear. No one to whisper a prayer. No one... no one...
You dig your plant back up and go over to the sad, weedy graves. You begin to pull weeds, and dig and scrape. The sweat drips off your nose, your knees ache, you hands are cramping. You have not made much progress. You put your red stained hands up to your face,, and your tears fall along with the beads of sweat. Is there some one there, in the cold North spring, who cares? Some woman who pulls the weeds? Some girl who plants flowers? Some children who run there, and make paths, and laugh and play?
You take a shakey breath and go home. You begin to organize. It's hard to talk your friends into it. It's a touchy subject. This was a bitter war. You work hard to get around people, and finally the work begins to get done.
This is how memorial Day started. With a woman who mourned and remembered, and was able to feel the pain of all the other women, no matter which side they were on. And one woman gave strength to another woman, and another, and another, and then the men took up the banner. Finally, after generations, even the government took up the cause, and gave us a three day weekend.