Fourth of July has come and gone. I marched with the Democrats yesterday, and today I took the flag down. I think it is time to retire the flag: it is showing its years and looking the worse for wear. The flag is a 48-star casket flag that I rescued at a garage sale. I’m certainly not a flag-waver, but seeing the rumpled flag next to a moth-eaten sweater and a fly swatter, I was so offended that I took it home to honor the fallen soldier. Imagine throwing away a casket flag! Shame on the family.
I “showed my colors” by marching with the Democrats. Those who chaired the Dems, chose to make apolitical signs. Every sign was supposed to be a single noun: taxpayer, citizen, banker, teacher, nurse, mechanic, and so on. I applaud the organizers who thought to stress that the Democrats are individuals, not lock-step, dyed-in-the-wool, party members.
Thinking ahead to the next decade, I chose to carry the “Grandmother” sign. If only we could get past today and consider the state of the world that we will leave our descendents.
The parade had its share of rodeo royalty and horses. But most of all we had goodwill and neighborliness that bridged party lines. Prior to the parade, I listened to the reading of The Declaration of Independence. The writing is inspired. You can thrill to the words and performance at National Public Radio: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92108861
In the days leading up to The Fourth, we (to include my husband, sister and brother-in-law) travelled south to Taos and Cimarron, New Mexico. Taos was bright light, art, history and fine food, but Cimarron was a shade darker. Our mission was to bury my mother’s ashes next to Daddy. These were not fresh ashes. Mother died in 2004, so any pain that we may have felt has passed.
I wrote “darker,” but in fact, we had quite the jolly time. I had forgotten to bring a shovel, so I stopped at the hardware store and bought one. When I asked the clerk for a short shovel such as you would keep in the car… for digging out of a snow drift…” he laughed: how clever of me to plan for snow on a sweltering day in July.
Hacking away at the hardpack, we wished that we had brought a pick-axe. The ground was like cement. Having just read about the difficulties of digging deep enough to bury the bodies along the Santa Fe Trail, I was ready to empathize. For certain, had my mother had not been placed in a pewter urn, the wolves would have had her before our wagon train was out of sight.
I’m afraid that we laughed a lot. Which led us to musing whether Mother would have found our efforts funny. Would she have been offended by our laughter? And how close did she want to be to Daddy? Honestly, what exactly was their relationship? She was quite a stickler for propriety, so adjoining cemetery plots was a given, but… maybe she would have rather been buried elsewhere.
Our speculations took us nowhere. As speculations about parents do. We know nothing. Flipping the coin, we must realize that our children know nothing about us. It is a sobering thought that leads me to thinking about the here and now. And I thought of a sign that I read in a Taos coffee bar. Caleb must have been a constant customer or perhaps he was working there as a barista. Regardless, whoever wrote the… I don’t know what to call it… obituary seems too formal… whoever wrote “in memory of” knew Caleb well. (Click on the photo to enlarge the text.)
My favorite stanza is “All we truly have are short minutes, good coffee and one another.” How true.
The Cimarron Cemetery is a barren place. For the most part, dirt, wind, and cactus hold sway. No one plants grass or flowers because water is scarce. You would have to live nearby and water several times a week to leave a living memorial. That said, I really liked the “living” Christmas tree that some thoughtful relative left to honor a deceased family member.
Deck the halls with boughs of holly and call my friends. Whether I’m here or gone, we shall drink coffee and laugh together.