Another Day in the Country
Getting coffee and memories
© Another Day in the Country
One of my singular pleasures, when my Cousin Keith comes back to Ramona for Memorial Day, is that he makes the coffee early in the morning.
His custom has been to get up early, make a pot of coffee, and sit on the front porch in the early morning quiet.
The pleasure part for me is to leisurely lie in bed until I smell the coffee brewing. It’s also very nice to hold a warm cup of coffee in my hands and swing leisurely on the front porch swing, listening to the birds sing.
Every year my cousins migrate back to Ramona to celebrate Memorial Day. I look forward to their coming through town when they make their annual visit to Lewis Cemetery to decorate graves of our relatives.
My cousin Glen came through, but we missed him. Cousins Georgia and Ed came by with their daughter, Shelley.
I went with them to St. Paul’s Cemetery to put down their last bouquet of flowers. Georgia rang the church bell and told me how her father, John, had rung that bell on her wedding day.
We didn’t think our Cousin Mack would probably come back this year since Virginia had only recently died, but he drove up in his shiny pickup truck with his daughter, Julie.
We sat on the porch reminiscing, savoring every aspect of a traditional country Memorial Day weekend.
Almost every morning there were at least four of us cousins sitting around my kitchen table, sometimes eating breakfast, sometimes with a cup of coffee, just talking. We love those leisure conversations.
Sometimes we retell family stories and laugh until we cry. Sometimes we learn something new from one of the cousins telling the tale.
Sometimes life issues are shared that we’ve never heard about before — the kind we hold privately that are sometimes difficult to talk about. These are precious moments, held sacred, as we share our lives sipping a cup of coffee.
There’s a favorite show of mine on Netflix called “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld is the host. He borrows some unusual car, calls a friend and then goes out for coffee, where they just talk. For me, it’s a little like sitting around the table with my cousins.
This past weekend, I wished many a time that I had a camera crew recording our family event.
“I wish you were recording these stories,” my sister said one morning.
We remembered how our mother used to hide a tape recorder and turn it on unbeknownst to us to record chatter around the table in her kitchen. She loved to play it back after we were gone so that the house didn’t feel quite so empty.
“Recording changes things,” I reminded my sister. “We just have to remember.”
One day this year the conversation around our table was about loved ones dying and unusual things happening afterward.
This whole process of letting go of life is such a mysterious thing, and we all struggle to explain the aftermath. All of us at the table had lost our parents, and we now found ourselves “the older generation.”
Another morning, Cousin Gary said, “Do you know about the first Memorial Day celebration?” and he told us about something he’d seen on television.
It seems a group of slaves, newly freed, dug up a mass grave of Yankee soldiers and reburied them properly, holding a parade in their honor as a way of thanking them for freedom.
We listened and marveled as we “warmed up” our cup of coffee.
After it was all over, I realized that the cousins who so faithfully return year after year to this little town are the ones who grew up here.
They are the ones who come back to honor their ancestors and to have potato salad in the park with the old timers they remember. This year we sat at the park and someone said, “There are fewer old timers this year.” He was right!
And then it hit us: We are now the old timers! The clock of time moves on, year after year, and in returning to this place, again and again, we mark the passage of the generations who’ve walked these fields before us on another day in the country.