As a child, we always went to the cemetery on Memorial Day. I grew up in a community where my parents had also grown up so we had a history there. None of the neighbors or relatives who’d passed were lost in battle and few were in the military but we went, regardless. We cleaned up the grave sites and placed peonies grown in my grandmother’s yard.
My grandmother always called it Decoration Day and in fact, that was what it was called up until 1868 when it became an holiday. Memorial Day is officially a day to honor those who have died in our nation’s service. There is evidence of decorating the graves long before it was proclaimed however. A hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella Sweet was dedicated “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead”.
Drive through any small town where people have roots and histories and you will see the lines of cars today. Some take fresh flowers and others adorn the headstones with silk flowers that they’ll come back to collect over the next week so they can reuse them next year. This, like President’s Day, is celebrated on a Monday – the last Monday in May so that workers can take full advantage of a 3-day weekend.
I love 3-day weekends but admittedly, it contributes to a diluted sense of meaning. We slept in, took an amazing hike, made delicious green smoothies and watermelon slushies and then we went to see The Sapphires – a true story which took place during the Viet Nam war, and are contemplating our evening meal.
In writing this, I have uncovered a movement started by the late Senator Daniel Inouye to change the day back to May 30th. The reason is to restore the traditional date of observance that it was and should be. I’m thankful for that reminder. During this weekend, I’m also reminded that we would’ve been pulling the first yellow squash of the season and eating them battered and fried. These days I’ve lightened up.
3 lbs yellow squash, seeded and cut in 1/2 inch segments (I didn’t seed the small ones)
- 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 Tbs. kosher salt
- 3 Tbs. olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of a heavy soup kettle)
- rice vinegar
- black pepper
- lemon juice from 1 lemon
- chopped celery, tomatoes, carrots for garnish
Heat large soup pot over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and heat until fragrant. Add garlic, squash, and salt. Wait until the pot begins to sizzle and then reduce to low heat and cover. Leave it for at least 45 minutes until the squash is cooked through. Turn off the heat and let the squash rest for 15 minutes. Then, using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the squash until creamy. Place in a pitcher and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, add the oil, vinegar, black pepper (the original recipe calls for white if you prefer), and lemon juice. Stir to mix and serve topped with diced vegetables.