Thursday, October 31, 2013


It's Halloween today and the weather forecast for middle America is horrendous, storms, winds, rains. No Candy today for the kids in America's breadbasket. We have a 50/50.
Bobby will cut the pumpkin today and  I am curious to what he will invent today.

It used to be so much fun dressing the girls with all sorts of tulle, hats, make up. I made all the costumes, we just did not have money to buy them and I thought it a big waste since it only lasts for one day...come to think of it so do wedding dresses but that is another story.

The day of memories for me will be tomorrow. All Saint's day. In a Catholic country such as Belgium every one at least will go to the cemetery that is a given. Going to church?not so much.

My child hood memories about this day are vivid.
My Uncle was a horticulturist , his parents had been too. He had inherited 2 huge green houses and so did his brother and sisters all on one huge plot of land.
Unfortunately my uncle also had agoraphobia. In the 1930's and 1940's no one talked about it being a mental disease. I only heard that he was one lazy .......
He would have his green houses jam full with chrysanthemums. 
I can still see the see of these gorgeous white blooms. Here and there he had some gold ones.

What you do with your crop, a small job this was n't. He had toiled over this but he could not get outside the gate of his property, he could not even cross the street without a panic.
My cousins and I would put pots by the gate in the hopes someone would come by and buy them there but we were several miles from the cemetery so why carry this when you knew there would be thousands of them in stalls right outside the place. 

My aunt wanted to rent stalls but she was the bread winner as a hard working RN. She did have a knack with flowers. She would do the orders  people placed with her every year. She worked with out sleep for several days making "crowns" , pillows, bouquets, crosses etc....all in her kitchen.
Ribbons would be flying everywhere and the floor covered with stem cuttings and leaves ,it looked like a green rug with white petals.

My mother helped some but did not have the talent like her sister, I myself can't put flowers together at all. My bouquet looks like I have it ready for the trash bin.

 Mother was in charge to go to the grave of their Mom, my grandma I called Meme.
She had passed on in 1936 when I was 4. People told me that she adored me and I loved that thought but I had little recollection of her at all. I always felt close to her yet I could not remember her touching me. 

Mother, my two cousins and I would march each with flowers in our arms, bouquets and all sorts of "pillows". The girls did fine but my cousin Etienne , my age, and a red head (read: trouble) would have to walk swinging flowers up and down as he danced along the cobble stones.
I do remember how my mother hated this trip with kids she could not order around like her daughter.

I started to get sad, on purpose, I knew my mother would be talking to the grave and crying her eyes out, she adored her mother. I knew what was expected of us "Crying". I just did not "feel it".
I figured if I did not cry mother would have some choice words for me.
Her favorite for me was "lazy, slow girl, slower than a turtle" she would figure out something and look at me with her steel angry eyes. I just had to muster up crying.

The streets were full of people with flowers and the entry to the cemetery was almost blocked from the crowd. Mother would have walked past the stalls and tell us how puny these blooms were compared to what was in the greenhouse of Leon. Mumbling she would tell us he was too lazy to come out here and sell. Mother did not understand mental health, few people did. You were put on earth to work not sit on your behind was her motto.

The cemetery is ancient, has formidable monuments, I loved the girl sitting by her piano a life size statue on her grave, artists, poets, writers, were buried here with inscriptions and wreaths in full color in Majolica pottery. (in the 90's these would be stolen and sold in the fleamarkets)
In the 80's some parents ordered a partial sculpture of an Harley which obviously had been a part in the death of their son. 
Behind my Meme's grave were some graves of soldiers who died in WW2, can't remember what nationality they were but Mom would always bring them a flower too.

Once at the grave the floods started, the talks to her mother, did she know how hard it was to live today, did she know the kids were here, did she know Julia could not come because that lazy husband of hers had her make bouquets.....I was hoping my Meme did not hear all that. Mother was weeping, her hanky was getting quite wet and looking at her I finally felt sorry for her and started to cry, so did my cousin but Etienne was gone to see what else interesting he could find.
I often forgot my hankies but that was OK I always had a shawl around my neck and that was handy for the nose as well.

We  would stay there forever, Mother rearranged the flowers over and over again. She knew her sister would come tomorrow and see if it was done correctly. We took over the tasks as critics, after all we had the major one with us. We, Janine and I, would check the flowers around us, we would grade them .This one was ugly, that one we would have stolen it was so gorgeous, that one was cheap, look at the ugly ribbon, look at the faded one and the day is not over yet, a bouquet made many days ago and sold cheap, no doubt. It did not take perception on our part to be flower critics we just followed the talk of the grown women. 

My biggest memory of the Nov 1 days was the cold. I do not remember rainy days, I remember always bitter cold, snow, ice and the fact that I could no longer feel my feet. Hoping mother would walk away and lets get on home to a warm house with a carpet of leaves. 

It seems to me that year after year it was the same freezing cold. Now you hardly hit frost yet in B. they have rain, they had a bad storm last week, winds and rain. Not the enormous cold we had. Weather for sure has changed a lot.

We hoped that my Uncle would have the french fries ready for the second frying when we'd walk in the door, he was very good at that. We also hoped that his family had run out of blooms and had come to his rescue to purchase wholesale mums.

Me, all I needed was the coal stove and put my feet in the oven for a little while.

Now, most probably no one will see the grave tomorrow.
The crypt was full, my Meme, her husband, my aunt, then the last my Mom.
Cousin Janine always filled it with flowers.
Cousin is now in bad health and in a residency. Etienne is in a home with Alzheimer.
I am 3500 miles away. 

A few years ago the whole row of these graves caved into a large sink hole.
Who knows how they managed to get all the graves correct.
They rebuilt the area, it took forever to sort it all out.
Who could possibly know what skeletons they had?
For me it does not matter. I can only hope that they are around us still in spirit.