Memorial Day Haroldsen Style

Memorial Day Haroldsen Style


            I have devoted all my free time and energy to our premoving preparations.  So right now my blogs and visits are few and far between.  However, this weekend is an exception.  I have taken a break from my storting and packing duties to go with my Beautiful Wife and children to visit our other children (who have preceded us in moving to Provo.)   This visit, of course is tied into our celebration festivities of Memorial Day weekend. 

It all started with a very spoiling birthday dinner (for me) on Friday.  Saturday morning, we got up early and headed to Provo.  The Pirates movie was fun, because of my wonderful companions.  The picnic dinner, which followed was great, because all the food was prepared by my Beautiful Wife and by my daughters (who learned to cook from my Beautiful Wife.)  I gained ten pounds this weekend.  Visiting with old friends at a wedding reception that evening was icing on the cake.  My daily phone call to see how my dad is doing and our attendance at church and visit with My Beautiful wife’s mother and husband rounded out our weekend of family visits and family associations.   

However, all thorough this weekend of family and friends, the magic of movies, and of food and festivities, I have been thinking of Memorial Day proper.  My understanding is that Memorial Day was conceived as a time to remember the fallen soldiers of the American Civil War.  By World War I, May 30 was designated as a day to remember all of our fallen soldiers.  From those beginnings, Memorial Day has come to include all of our loved ones who have passed on, and is now celebrated on the last Monday of May.  

So this weekend, in my idle moments when my mind can wander (mostly while driving the 400-500 miles of our travels), I was thinking of the diverse places many of my loved ones are buried.  I have visited the graves of loved ones in Canada, Idaho, Utah, and California.  I know of others far away which I haven’t visited.  My parents are visiting our Idaho Cemeteries today, decorating the graves and remembering with fondness.  I wish I lived closer so I could participate.  My children grew up far from where any of our loved ones were buried.  So they don’t know of our family tradition.  I wish we could have passed on this tradition to them, but it didn’t happen. 

So today, I am mentally back in my childhood home observing Memorial Day, "Haroldsen style”. 

Memorial Day wasn’t always observed on a Monday.  Traditionally it was on May 30th, no matter what day of the week it fell on.

            When I was growing up, our Memorial Day routine was always the same.  We only did the bare necessities on the farm, which would take us until about 11:00 am.  By that time, we had feed everywhere it should be and all the eggs gathered that we could by then.  While Dad and us boys were doing the farm work, Mom and the girls were packing away a first class picnic lunch. 

As quickly as possible, we would come in from work, get cleaned up and head for Idaho Falls.  Our first stop was always at Rose Hill Cemetery.  Although I wasn’t even born when he died, Gary Kent was the main thing on my mind.  As I stood looking at his grave marker, I could learn little bits and pieces about his life and how he died as I listened to Mom and Dad make comments.  But Mom was always very emotional and Dad unusually quiet as we visited Gary Kent’s grave, so I didn’t ask too many questions.  Even though I didn’t ever know him in this life, I missed Gary Kent and have always felt an empty spot deep inside, caused by his absence.  I always thought of the fact that Gary Kent’s birthday was the day after mine, and that Memorial Day (when we went to visit his grave) was only four days later.

            After our visit at the Cemetery, we would go to Tautphaus Park, for our picnic.  Tautphaus Park almost adjoins Rose Hill Cemetery.  So it was kind of like spending the day with our loved ones who had died. 

            No one could do a first class picnic like my Mom.  There was always more food and more variety than even a hungry boy could possibly hope to conquer.  Besides first class picnic areas, Tautphaus Park also had a nice playground area, a carnival ride area and a small zoo.  So we had plenty to do, even as kids, for the rest of the day.  Even though we would have to pay for our playtime by how early our next morning of chores on the farm would start, our Memorial Day picnics were always a highlight for me as I grew up.

            So now I’m here at home, reminiscing about all those good Memorial Day memories and wishing that my children could have the same experience.  We live hundreds of miles away from Rose Hill Cemetery or any other cemetery where family members are buried, so with the distance and my immediate family responsibilities, it won’t happen.  Maybe next year.  We’ll live a hundred mile closer to my childhood roots.  Yes, next year I’m going home for Memorial Day.  Children! Next year would you like to come along and help me celebrate Memorial Day Haroldsen Style?


Thinking of Mom

Celebrating My Mother’s Birthday


I’m a winter sort of guy.  I’ve always loved the snow and blow, the ice and cold, the short days and long nights.  Frozen fingers and toes don’t bother me.  The coziness of home and hearth is even nicer after I’ve spent the day out in the winter wonderland. 

But there is something about the springtime of year which thaws my heart to the idea of the summer sun.  I like to see my loved ones happy, and anyone who knows my Beautiful Wife knows that a warm sunny day will brighten her like magic.  But there is another woman who I have watched bask in the warming sun of May as long as I can remember. 

My mother was raised on the British Colombian coast.  Her happy childhood memories include the sun and sand of the beach.  It was love and romance that brought her to the snow and blow of Southeastern Idaho.  I’ve watched her endure our Idaho winters year after year.  And then usually in May, even in southeastern Idaho, the sun stretches higher in the sky and Mother Earth below responds accordingly. 

As a child, I always thought that the emerging flowers were simply the earth decorating for my mother’s birthday which is in early May.  In my young mind, Mothers Day celebrations were simply everyone celebrating my mother’s birthday which was sometimes very close to that second Sunday in May. 

My mother has always been a quiet force for good.  She is content to work in the background, making sure that those around her are successful and happy.  She has literally been the woman holding the ladder while my father climbed his way to success in life.  She is still holding the ladder for my dad while he climbs his way through a devastating illness. 

My mother is the same way with each her seven living children. I know that all of my other siblings could tell their own stories of her support and what she’s done for them in the past, or even now in the present.  I think a story of my high school days is good example of how she is always there as a support and help when we need it. 

One of my extra curricular activities in high school was choir.  It wasn’t just any old choir, but I was a member of what I felt like was the best select high school choir anywhere around.  The Bel Cantos even back then had a legacy of excellence as we performed all over the area.  We even went on tour to other places. 

This was our school’s homecoming week back in the fall of 1977, and I was one of the officers of the Bel Cantos.  In line with our determination to be the best at anything we did, we had designed a float for the homecoming parade which was more than ambitious for busy high school students.  I can’t remember the theme of the float, but I’ll never forget the design. 

We started with a Volkswagen Bug, made a thirteen foot ball over the top of it out of construction rebar (the steel reinforcement that goes in concrete), and covered this steel rebar with chicken wire.  We then attached two 12 foot carpet tubes end to end for a 24 foot quarter note staff out the back, and cut an 8 foot panel into an eighth note flag.  Our giant eighth note on wheels had a clever slogan (which I have now forgotten) on both sides.   

The problem with the Bel Cantos was that these were the kids who were in EVERYTHING at school.  So when it came to making our clever plans a reality, I was left holding the bag.  Most of my fellow Bel Cantos were also in every other club and group who were also making floats for our big parade.  So the reality was, I had the lion share of actually building that float. 

Construction of the under frame went very quickly.  We had purchased 15,000 napkins from a paper products wholesaler to stuff the 13 foot chicken wire ball. But only a few others came along that night to help me stuff all those napkins.  After a few hours of work they went home, and I was left looking at one fourth beautifully napkin stuffed, three fouths bare chicken wire ball fastened to that Volkswagen.  Now my reputation for following through was at stake.  I didn’t stop working all night.  The only break I took the next day was to go in to the school for my Senior Picture. (My glassy eyed stare in that picture still reminds me how tired I was that day.) 

It was about 8:00pm that night, (starting into my 2nd night of no sleep) that I realized we would run out of napkins.  I went home and told my mom that it was a hopeless cause.  We wouldn’t have a float in the parade the next morning after all.  Now up to that point, I hadn’t even been aware that my mom had paid particular attention to this project.  She had remained in the background as my fellow choir members came and went and the work progressed slowly.  But the moment I walked into the house and declared defeat, she sprang into action. 

“You’re NOT going to quit now!  Not after all the work you’ve put into it.”

“But I have no choice.  We are out of napkins and the paper supplier is closed now.”

Before I could even spell out just how hopeless the whole thing was my mother was steering me back on course.

“Let’s go to all the grocery stores in the area and buy all their white napkins… Take down those small signs on the sides and make BIG ones to cover up more bare chicken wire… It’s time to call in the rest of the choir.  It’s their float too.” 

By midnight that night, our beautiful float was ready for the parade and I got a good night sleep before driving it to town where we won an award for most original float. 

Yes, my mother doesn’t really like to be out on stage any more than she likes the snow and cold, but she sure knows how to make those of us who are on stage, look good.  Obviously, this is just one of the many ways she has always showed her love for us.  When it comes to loving us, my mother’s actions always spoke louder than her quiet spoken, soft words.  So this year as Mother Nature gives my mother the same birthday gift of warmth and beauty of late spring, I’m thinking of the gift of support and encouragement that she always gives to us year around.  As I see Mother’s Day advertisements, it reminds me that people everywhere are still helping me celebrate my mother’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Mom.  I love you back.