Memorial Day weekend ushers in summer. Some folks head to the beach, others the mountains. My family holds its annual family picnic following a parade in my parents’ town. We feast on hot dogs and burgers fresh from the grill accompanied by my Aunt Bea’s delicious potato salad. For the adults, my step-mother Jane makes slush, a frozen combination of about fifty types of alcohol and a splash of juice which is scooped out into plastic cups and has ginger ale poured on top. We play grudge matches of crochet (think Calvin and Hobbes), sending each other’s balls far into the neighbor’s yard as we can.
In short, Memorial Day is a great time for traditions and memory-making.
It’s also a perfect time to ask questions!
Here are a few we’d like to suggest:
- What did you do all day during the summer when you were growing up?
- Who taught you how to grill/cook?
- What’s the best story you have about the worst grill disaster you have?
- How did you celebrate Memorial Day growing up?
- Whose recipe is missing from this celebration and where is it now?
But Memorial Day isn’t all about summer and picnics. When my Grandmother Kevin was alive, she used to ensure that we’d travel to Williamsport, PA, the weekend before Memorial Day to place flowers on the graves of all our ancestors. Because I lived with her, I had to accompany her on what I thought was a morbid task. I recognize now that she felt strongly about honoring her parents, first husband, my grandfather, and her two daughters (both of whom died young). She viewed this task as her sacred duty. It was a privilege to accompany her. I haven’t been back to the cemetery since we buried her in 2007 alongside my grandfather but I always think about her on Memorial Day weekend, more than at any other time of the year.
So, in her honor, we’d like to suggest additional questions to ask individually of your gathered family. Use your smartphone to record their answers:
- What’s your last memory of your grandmother/grandfather?
- Were you closer to your mother or father? Why?
- When did you decide you wanted to be a [fill in the blank] and what or who influenced you most?
- What are your top three favorite things in life?
- What’s the best advice you can give me?
Wishing you and yours a safe and happy Memorial Day holiday.