Decoration Day

I am going to show my age by saying that I remember when this holiday was called “Decoration Day.” It wasn’t until 1971 that it became an official federal holiday and the name changed to Memorial Day.

I’m not a big history buff, but I love finding bits and pieces of fascinating historical events that have helped to form us into what we are today.

I discovered that the first time this day was set aside to honor those who gave their lives in battle happened shortly after the end of the bloody Civil War.

(Copied from the History.com website) On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

And there you have it. When I was a kid, we would load up the car and travel from Hobbs, New Mexico to California on May 30th to visit my dad’s family. Those trips were some of my most vivid childhood memories. Little did I know the date had anything to do with veterans or war. For me, seen through the eyes of a child, it was just our time to go to California.

I’ll share a quick story from one of those trips. Let me preface this by saying that our dad did not like to stop. He saw it as a precious waste of time, so all mandatory stops were short and sweet.

We pulled into a service station somewhere in Arizona for gas. That was back in the day when a person came out, filled up your car, checked your oil, and washed your windshield. (And they didn’t even expect a tip!) So, while Dad was talking to the service station attendant, Mom, myself and my sister got out of the back seat to go use the restroom.

As soon as the car was serviced, Dad jumped back in and took off without ever glancing in the backseat. He made it several miles down the road before he realized we weren’t back there. 🙂 Needless to say, Mom was not a happy camper by the time he got back to the station, and she let him know about it the rest of the way to California.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day everyone!!

Hard Times – Part 4

This has been a short story based on a true incident that occurred to one of my older siblings and passed down from my mom. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as I wrap it up today.

When we left Ella, Walter and the children, they were in the doctor’s office where the doctor had removed the shards of glass from baby Charlie’s mouth. He is about to give them home care instructions. We’ll join them to see what he has to say.

Dr. Davis scrubbed his hands then pulled up a metal chair and sat across from Walter and Ella. “Even though I got all the glass I could see out of his mouth, we don’t know how much he might have swallowed.” He sighed. “And therein lies the problem.”

Ella leaned forward, cradling the now sleeping baby. “What can we do, doctor?”

“You may think this sounds crazy, but I want you to get some potatoes and boil them up. I’ll give you some cotton balls to take home with you. Tear off little pieces of the cotton and wrap the potato around it to make tiny balls, and make him swallow it. Do this several times a day. The cotton should grab any slivers of glass and he’ll pass them in his stool.”

The nurse had stood in the background, but moved forward. “Do you folks have potatoes?”

Walter shook his head. “But, I’ll get some.”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to drop by your place later today to check on the baby,” Dr. Davis said.

“Thank you, sir,” Ella said quietly. “We’ll find a way to pay you.”

The doctor waved his hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s Christmas time and the least I can do.”

With a box of cotton balls in hand, Walter, Ella, and the children left the doctor’s office.

Inside the ragged old car, Ella let fresh tears fall. “Oh, Walter, I am so sorry. I only let him out of my sight long enough to hang out the washin’. He just can’t die.”

Walter touched Ella’s arm. “Pull yourself together. We’ll do whatever we can. We need to buy a few potatoes.”

Ella nodded and held Charlie close to her heart. She was grateful that Walter didn’t seem mad at her for not watching the baby closer. She didn’t think she could carry any more guilt.

Over the next few hours, together, Walter and Ella managed to get several potato cotton balls down little Charlie’s throat along with a few sips of water.

True to his word, the good doctor stopped by to check on him, promising a return visit the next day.

Ella sat rocking Charlie as the sunlight faded into cold darkness. “Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve, Walter. And, all I want is for our baby to be okay. If we can have that, it’ll be enough.”

Walter nodded. “I know.” He ran a hand through his thin hair. “It don’t seem to matter what we do, we can’t never get a break.”

Jane and Celie had been quiet since they’d left the doctor’s office. Jane sat in the corner with her doll while Celie sucked her thumb.

“Mama,” Jane said. “I’m sorry. I shoulda watched Charlie better.”

“Come here,” Ella said. “Now you listen here, Jane Smith. You are just a little girl. I shoulda never put that responsibility on you. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But, Santa won’t think so. He knows and he won’t bring us nothin’.”

Ella met Walter’s eyes over the top of the little girl’s head. Sadness crushed her heart. It was true. They had nothing for the girls and no hope of getting anything. Sadness turned to anger and she resented the folks that seemed to have more than enough. They worked hard and didn’t waste anything and yet nothing changed.

Throughout the night and the next day, Ella and Walter continued to poke the potato cotton balls down Charlie’s throat. He’d remained lethargic, only opening his eyes now and then and letting out a whimper.

Early on Christmas morning a car rolled to stop outside their tiny house. When Walter opened the door, he gasped.

“Merry Christmas!” Dr. Davis’ nurse said as she pranced through the door. “I brought you folks some things.” She sat down a large bag that included a ham and fresh vegetables.

Ella moved toward her. “Oh, dear! You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know I didn’t. But I wanted to. I’ve got a few things here for your girls too, if it’s okay with you.”

Ella nodded

Jane and Celie rushed forward. The nurse passed brightly wrapped packages to them and they tore into them like ravenous animals.

Squeals of excitement filled the small space, as they unwrapped new dolls, a set of jacks and a ball and a coloring book along with crayons.

Ella fought against more tears. In the midst of the chaos, Dr. Davis arrived.

He strode to Charlie and picked him up. The baby opened his eyes and smiled at the good doctor. After completing an examination, he turned to Walter and Ella. “I do believe we have a Christmas miracle. I think your little Charlie is going to be just fine. You folks did a fine job of doctoring him.”

And, so Walter and Ella along with their three children had a Christmas to remember.

For once, they filled their bellies with as much food as they wanted, and the future held hope…hope for a brighter day…hope for prosperity and hope for happiness.

THE END…

Ella
Walter

As I told you at the beginning, this was a true story passed down through the family. Above you can see Ella and Walter (my mom and dad, Marian and I.V. Smith).

I sincerely wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas! If you need a Christmas Miracle, I pray that you receive it. For, it is truly a magical time of year!

Hard Times – Part 2

I started a short story last Sunday that is based on true tales passed down from my mom and older sister. The story takes place during a time when the full raging effects of the Great Depression had displaced so many.

We met Walter and Ella Smith, who are living with their three children in a small wood-frame house that Walter built for $50 out of used lumber and bent nails. But, it was a sight better than the tent they’d occupied before the drafty tiny house. When we left them, Walter had gone off to work at the gas station and Ella had been summoned from hanging clothes on the line by her oldest daughter. The baby, Charlie, was bleeding. We’ll rejoin them now and see what has happened.

Ella burst through the door and gasped when she saw Charlie sitting in the middle of the floor wailing with blood running from his mouth. 

“Jane, what happened?”

The eight-year-old girl sobbed. “I don’t know, Mama. Me and Celie were playing and he started crying.”

Ella scooped up the crying baby and examined his mouth. Tiny shards of glass could be seen. 

A look back at the floor revealed more glass. 

She grabbed a quilt off the bed and wrapped it around him. “Jane and Celie, get your shoes on quick! We’ve got to go get help.”

Running like the devil chased her, Ella flew down the hill with the two girls close behind. 

She banged on the door of her nearest neighbor. 

A white-haired man opened the door. “What in tarnation is wrong, Ella?”

“Please, help me, Mr. Fagan, I’ve gotta get my baby to the doctor. He’s bleeding awful bad.” She swiped at the tears streaming down her face. “And he has glass in his mouth.”

The old man moved like cold molasses. “Well, then. Let me get my coat and I’ll drive you to Doc Davis’s.”

“Thank you, sir. But, can we hurry?” She attempted to soothe the squalling baby in her arms. 

Panic gripped her heart tight, like a vise around a ripe melon. She feared it might explode from the pressure. Guilt overtook the fear and she chastised herself for not taking the younguns outside with her. It’s just that it was so cold. 

Mr. Fagan hobbled out to the rusted 1934 Chevy coupe and groaned when he slid behind the wheel.

Ella wasted no time getting the girls into the car before joining them on the narrow seat. 

“Sh,” she rocked the crying baby. “Can we hurry, Mr. Fagan? I’m so scared.”

The old man ran a gnarled hand through his white hair and started the engine. “Don’t reckin I ever heard of a baby eatin’ glass before.”

“Me neither,” Ella managed. 

“Where’s Walter?” The old man asked.

“Working at the station today. Can you stop by there on your way home, and let him know?”

The old man nodded and pulled to a stop in front of the corner building where the doctor’s shingle hung.

Ella sprang from the car. “Jane, hold your sister’s hand.” They rushed inside the doctor’s office. 

                                                                             TO BE CONTINUED…………