Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Column: Keeping memories of past alive

by Carol Holoboff
| June 4, 2009 12:00 AM

Oscar Wilde said, “Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

Events that shape and change our lives this time of the year are rich with nostalgia. There seems to be a lot of beginnings and endings in the ceremonies and rituals.

On Memorial Day, I made my annual trek to the cemetery to decorate the graves of my family and friends who have died. I walked the grass aisle separating the rows of granite markers dated 1949 until I found my mother’s name. She was 48 when she died. I thought she was 48 years “old.” I was grateful that she had lived until I could take care of myself. I was 10 and I could comb my own hair.

Across the field, in the special section for paupers, I found a brass plate with my father’s name spelled wrong. I hope he knows I hold the only college degree in our family. 

I take the time to decorate those graves so strangers walking past will know that person is remembered. The ritual makes me stop, for at least one day, in my too-busy life to turn the pages of my mental diary. I wonder if any of the younger generation will observe Decoration Day. I hope they know I like carnations best.

Weddings and graduations, Flag Day and Father’s Day tend to ruffle our emotional feathers. Mothers, the keepers of emotions, stuff their purses and sleeves with extra hankies in anticipation of bittersweet tears.  They have known, since making that first entry in the baby book, that this day would come.

Fathers, on the other hand, somehow thought they could put it all off for yet another year. Only when the mortar boards fly through the gymnasium will dads begin to look at the world through misty eyes.

The father of the bride will concentrate hard on the cadence of the wedding march and keep the proper pace as he escorts his little girl. When the minister asks, “Who gives this woman?” the father of the bride will answer with a firm voice, “Her mother and I.”

Not until the reception when he steps out for the father-daughter dance and she no longer stands on his shoes, does the “daddy” weep. She leads him across the floor to the old refrain. “You’re the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold and your daddy’s little girl to have and to hold.”

When I was daddy’s little girl, I perched high on his shoulders to watch summer parades and Santa arrive. From there I could see all I ever needed to see. When I look now, in that place behind my eyes where memories live, I can feel his tight grip on my ankle and wrist as he flies me through the air.

“Do it again, Daddy!” And he did. Over and over, and then, the giggles ended, except in my memory. No doubt, my dad knew our days were numbered, but I thought those golden days would go on forever. 

I put the flag out on Flag Day and I remember the little flags we waved at the soldiers who marched in our parades. I put small American flags on my brothers’ graves even though they lived long past World War II because I may be the only memory keeper left of that generation.

I am a memory maker now, for those who will carry the plastic flowers into the next generation.

(Carol Holoboff is a former Libby resident who now writes her column from Great Falls).