Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - 8

MILL CREEK STORIES

Family Ties
Giving what's due at the graveyard.
By MOLLY DUGGER BRENNAN | Illustration by JOSEPH MACKERETH

I

don't know about you, but I was raised by a Southern woman. Southern women have rules. Lots of
them. The rules range from how one uses a spoon
to eat soup to family obligations that are sacrosanct.
To this day whenever I eat a bowl of soup, I hear
my mother's voice say, " All the little boats go out to
sea. " That means that you pushed your spoon away
from you to fill it (out to sea) so you didn't splash it on
yourself.
One of the must-do rules was that every May, we went
'round to the cemeteries where the family was buried and
cleaned the graves to get ready for Memorial Day. That
means that we went to three different cemeteries in central Virginia, our trunk loaded with supplies to clean the
grave stones, plant flowers and put out tiny, fresh American flags.
While cleaning things has never really excited me, I

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got to pick one small thing to leave for each family member. If they'd served in the military, and we've had people
serve from the Revolutionary War through the Korean
War, they got a flag. You must honor the veterans on Memorial Day.
I chose more personal items for the others. My greatuncle Caldwell always got a small apple on his tombstone. He built his own cedar coffin and kept it under his
bed filled with apples as food storage through the winter. We are a practical people. Even though I was little, I
would leave small gifts for my family, even if it was just
a pretty rock that I had found, while Mama scrubbed the
headstones and told me stories about the person whose
grave we were tidying up.
Here's where I learned that one of my relatives was
known as " The Duelist " within the family. Turns out he
owned a popular tavern just after the Revolutionary War


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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021

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