As a child a few days after Thanksgiving, my Mom and Aunt would bundle my cousin and I up and pack us into the car with a blanket. No not the kind you might be thinking of to keep little girls warm in the back of a 1970’s Chevy, but a grave blanket. We would make our yearly trip to the National Cemetery to visit our Grandfather, their Dad, and lay a blanket down hopefully before the first snow of the season fell and I assume before the ground got too hard for them to stake down the blanket. Each year we would be in the backseat hearing them talk about what blanket to get that year. It always became clear that whatever they decided upon it would be the most beautiful one they ever bought. Should it have ribbons or bows? Presents or garland? Fake snow or pine cones? The list of requirements would go on and last the 45 minute drive, even if we already settled on the perfect one.
All the while I was stuck back there with the blanket hating the stench of pine. It was horrible. I had allergies and well I just hated it. BUT I loved going to the cemetery to visit my Grandpa whom I’ve never met. He died in 1966, nine years before I was born. But the stories and photos they were all I needed to feel the closeness of him.
By the time we would reach the section for the gravesite, after my aunt would insist on driving the labyrinth the wrong and long way around, my cousin and I would walk carefully through the row until we reached the crooked tree. It was wedged next to a headstone in the opposite row but was our clue we were getting close.
As a kid I would play in the leaves and say hello to the soldiers whose headstones I would try to read, thanking them for their service and wishing them a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukah depending what their headstone led me to believe. Once we got to Grandpa, my Mom and aunt were already there. How did they do that? They left the car after us, we would wonder. Then my Mom would tell us to look around the headstone to see what we would find. My cousin always found the money and I was so caught up in the enormity of the massive amounts of headstones far beyond what my childhood eyes could see. So I more often than not would find the stones or pebbles. To me they were the most precious thing. I didn’t care for the shiny quarters I had stones!!
This tradition would continue to carry on. Then my Nana passed away in 1993, and we would have different questions. Two blankets or a larger one? Make sure there’s Red on there, she loved her red, and don’t forget the cigarettes and candy. Some years my Mom and Aunt would take separate trips to the cemetery, so we never knew what would be there when we arrived. But one thing was for sure. I would still be looking for my stones. Yes all those years later I still find the stones. Surely not the hardest thing in a cemetery but still precious none the less.
I often go to visit my grandparents when I’m looking for answers to life’s mysterious questions. Or to seek wisdom when I’m hurting or confused. I always leave a stone, beach shell, or even a Chuckle Candy behind. It doesn’t just have to be to lay the blanket down for Christmas.
Although today it was.
Mom and I went today, oh did the car stink of pine. But once a year as I’ve aged I’ve grown to love the smell of it. I will never get a real tree, nor burn pine candles, but my car can smell of pine for them. We arrived with ease and found the crooked tree that still stands tall. I still get caught up my the enormity of the rows of headstones for all the fallen soldiers, so I take some time to thank them. Especially Mr McGuire. I don’t know the man but, his stone, like the crooked tree, is my clue I’m in the right area.
When I found my grandparents headstone the first thing I saw on the ground was the seashell I left back in August/September of this year. My heart smiled and I cried a little bit extra. I was having a rough patch back then and asked for a sign. I guess we all do at some point. I think seeing the shell today was that sign. Mom and I had a few moments together laughing at stories and drinking our coffee. We put down the most beautiful blanket we ever bought. It was simply perfect. I laid the seashell back on the headstone and found a stone to take home for my collection. There aren’t that many, but they’re mine.
Who knows what will be there when I return in the spring, but the blanket is down, and now it can snow 🙂 ❄️❄️
Those are my Random Musings and Wanderlust for today 🙂