Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Celebrating Memorial Day (children's style)

Ruminations: Sometimes your kids just have a way of making you proud. We visited cemeteries for Memorial Day. My kids thought it was really interesting to look at the names and dates and ages on the different headstones. But they were just names and dates and ages to my kids, not people. How could I expect them to extract stone-written information and translate that to "this was a real, live person"? I made an attempt to explain why we don't romp around the cemetery, that although the people buried here probably didn't care, there were those of us walking about above ground who needed the respect and reverence in order to deal with the solemnity of death and the acceptance of loss. Of course, children don't want to deal with the solemnity of death. They want to celebrate life!
And so they did, in their own reverent way. After they understood the function of cemeteries, they brushed off the gloom so often found in such places and on such days, pushing it away like they would brush off irritating cobwebs. Suddenly the headstones represented people, people who had lived, not just died, and were waiting there for my children to pay attention to them. The kids were happy to oblige as they flitted from one headstone to another, greeting the people's names and dates and ages with as much enthusiasm as when making a new friend. It was as if they said, "Happy to meet you!" each time they stopped at a headstone.
The kids were proud to be part of putting flowers on the headstones of their relatives. They liked giving gifts to honor their family members, most of whom they'd never met. Their delight in sharing a present with the dead reminded me of their delight in giving presents at birthdays. If death is but a birth into the next life, then my kids wanted to make it a festive celebration - of the life lived and the lives still living.
It was a happy occasion as my children connected with their family. There was birthday-like cheer in the air during this one-sided family reunion. Well, perhaps it wasn't one-sided. Perhaps the spirits of our ancestors smiled at the children who hadn't learned to feel the deep sorrow of loss yet.
My oldest son showed his emerging understanding of death, and dealt with it in a pleasantly mature and sensitive way. He noticed headstones that were bare, unlike most of the other headstones that were adorned with real or artificial flowers. And he thought it wasn't right. He thought that all the Dead deserved some honor on this special day. So he put a flower on a bare, very old, headstone. Then he found another naked headstone and clothed it with another flower. It wasn't long before all my children had followed his example, and the Hancock Children's Society to Provide Flowers to All People's Headstones was unofficially formed. The "flowers" my kids were gathering were pitiful-looking dandelions found in the grass around the cemetery. I'm sure the Dead didn't mind, but I wonder what the Living will think when they see shriveled old weeds adorning the headstones of the cemetery.
Maybe they'll see the weeds, smile, and think, "Ah, children must have been celebrating here."

Running: Not. I hurt my back and spent the long holiday weekend wishing the holiday would hurry up and pass so I can get into a chiropractor or physical therapist! No running. So I'll call this,
Hiking: I did hobble after my family on a hike into Piney (Pine) Butte, a place Jeff and I went to during high school as part of our Outdoor Club fieldtrip. It was fun to share it with the children and to relive old memories with Jeff.
It's a crater, a sunken old volcano steam vent, that is shaped like a bowl with trees lining the inside edges of the bowl, and a flat, grassy meadow on the bottom of the bowl. Outside the bowl, the edges slope gently away into miles and miles of relatively flat sagebrush-filled land.
It is so odd to have a forested crater in the middle of all that sagebrush. From outside the crater you can only see a few of the Douglas Fir trees sticking up on the hill like lost strangers in a foreign land. They just don't belong. When you crest the hill and finally look down into the crater, it just surprises you to see moss-covered rocks, bent old fir trees, snow patches, Quaking Aspen, and grass. Where's the sagebrush? It's a different world, an oasis in the desert of sagebrush. We had fun exploring the forest. My boys (ages 8 & 10) claimed various rock piles as their own new forts, and proceeded to have snowball fights. My oldest girl (age 5) examined all the different mosses and lichens, searched for bugs, picked flowers, and basically practiced her already-chosen occupation as a Naturalist. My youngest daughter (age 2) had fun climbing over rocks and around tree roots.
Jeff and I took turns watching and exploring with them.
I read a book once called "The Geography of Childhood" and it mentioned that children don't see the end of the hike as the goal, but the hike itself as the purpose - the flowers beneath their feet instead of the view up ahead. I saw my kids today approach the hike not as a destination -not as a thing to be attempted, accomplished, and left behind, but as a journey - an experience to be examined, enjoyed, and thought about. It was fun to watch. It would have been more fun if my back wasn't killing me, though!

Reading: Horatio Hornblower is growing into quite the sailor and officer. Good book, and I do like the stories (each chapter is its own new adventure), but I don't know if I'll read all eleven in the series.

Recipes: No cooking today. Too busy with hiking and swimming lessons.
Okay, so I did make chocolate chip cookies... Actually, I just made the dough. It's waiting in the fridge for me to eat it. :) I like to bake only what we'll eat in one day, save the rest of the dough in the fridge or freezer, and bake new batches when we run out. I don't like old cookies. Fresh-baked are so much better.
But I did make some enchiladas the other day, cheating by using canned green enchilada sauce (sometimes you're just in a hurry...).
Brown 1lb hamburger with diced onions, drain, stir in about 1/4 cup flour. In a separate bowl, mix 1 can green enchilada sauce with 4 oz. cream cheese. Combine cream cheese mixture with hamburger. Add about 1/4 cup. salsa and a can of drained & rinsed black beans. Warm GOOD tortillas for 1 minute on high in the microwave. Fill with hamburger mixture, a handful of cheese, and pour a little of the remaining green enchilada sauce. Wrap, place in pan side by side. Pour another can of green enchilada sauce, a bunch of salsa, and tons of cheese on top. At 350, bake covered (tent the tin foil so the cheese doesn't stick) until warmed through and cheese is melted (about 45 minutes). Serve with rice, cut tomatoes, avocados, chips, whatever floats your boat.


  1. hey, that's the plate I ATE! yum yum yum yum yum! is it any wonder i prefer eating at your house? that book you mentioned about kids hiking sounds really interesting. i wish i was more interested in the here-and-now and not the end of the hike. i agree with your fresh baked cookie sentiment. i have a bad habit of doubling cookie recipes with the idea that more is better. well, once they have spent a few days out of the oven, i am done with them. ha!

    ps the dandelion festivities were cute. i kept thinking to myself that i was a much more sober child at cemeteries. ;) who knows if that was really the case, but to each his own. i suppose it WAS a holiday meant for celebration!

  2. Jeff's skinny. How'd he get so skinny? He's skinny. Oh, and your blog rocks. Mrs. Call said so on facebook today.