FADING TRACES AND OLD MEMORIES

Who left the lavender flowers by the old tombstone? It could have been anyone in a town where memories are long and roots run deep.

Traces

The cemetery is in the center of the town, across from the dam and just a hundred or so yards from the river itself. It’s up on a hill, so it never floods, even when the rivers rush over their banks. The people who created that cemetery knew about the rivers. And flooding. They picked a beautiful spot, but dry and safe for the bones and memories.

An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains traces of many generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its many tributaries, fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here — Revolutionary War soldiers, Civil War veterans as well as those who fought in all the American wars since.

Every Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, the cemetery blooms with bouquets and flags. The schools bring the children here, so they will remember too and traditions will be maintained. They bring bouquets of wild flowers or from the back garden. Lilacs and lilies, scarlet poppies … and always a miniature American flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring, remembering.

Revolutionary CemetaryMaybe it’s easier to remember here, with such a small population. Is that it? Or it’s just part of the air, the character, the history. Remembering is what we do in the Valley.

The cemetery is one of my favorite places. We’re newcomers after all, only living here 13 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, Bialystok … from tiny villages in Ireland and the West Indies and the shtetls of eastern Europe.

Valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. They built churches, businesses and factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the rivers run.

Newcomers, like us, aren’t rare anymore but far from common. We have no ancestors in the cemetery, at least none about whom we know. Anything is possible in America.

The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the majority of families have lived in the town or in a nearby villages for three, four, five generations.

“We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning as long as anyone can remember. If gently prodded, they may recall at some point, long ago, they came from somewhere else … but some can’t remember when or if it’s true.

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I point out they must have come from somewhere because unless they are Native American, they came to this place, even if a long time since. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young. Hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago … a long time.”

We nod, because it was a long time ago, longer than we’ve been alive and we aren’t young.

So another year passes and little flags and flowers bloom in the old cemetery in the middle of town.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

40 thoughts on “FADING TRACES AND OLD MEMORIES”

  1. A beautiful cemetery holds far more than the dead–it’s full of history, romance, sorrow, joy, art and nature, and so much more. Even though I’m planning to be cremated and scattered myself, I love cemeteries. I just want my time spent in them to be while I’m alive to get something out of the experience.

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  2. I come from a place we call the Valley, as well – and it’s an old Steel Mill town. There is an amazing cemetery about 10 footsteps away from my grandmother’s house, up on a very large hill. It never freaked me out at all…it was and still is a very beautiful place.

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  3. we have a beautiful old cemetery here with veterans of the revolutionary war… its amazing and gorgeous in its own way. Nicely done piece.

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  4. It’s strange that some cemeteries, instead of being creepy make us feel nostalgic. I get that too, sometimes, at some cemeteries.
    We don’t have much lavender plants in the Philippines, but I just so love lavender. That’s why this story appeals so much to me.

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    1. Tnanks. Sometimes,really old cemeteries seem to have echos of the past in the stones. As if they remember. This one is really quite special. We are very fond of lavender around here. Our favorite scent and one of my favorite colors too 🙂

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  5. Old cemeteries are one of my favorite places to take pictures. I love the ones you have included in this post. The last one is especially gorgeous!

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    1. Because it’s up on a hill and a road runs next to it, below the level of the cemetery, you can actually shoot it from below ground level so the stones are above you. I’m a bit short and have to do it sort of blind, trying shots to see what I get … but it gives a unique perspective 🙂

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  6. This is really a beautiful post. I grew up in Fredericksburg, VA, and my school was right next door to a Civil War cemetery. The sixth graders had the much-anticipated privilege of putting flags on all the gravestones for Memorial Day. I’m grateful to have grown up in a relatively “old” place, steeped in history, memories, and stories about the past. It helps one feel grounded. The West, where I live now, is wonderful, but doesn’t have that same sensibility.

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    1. No. Out there, they think old is the 1970s. I love history and am very grateful (like you) to live someplace where history is valued. Virginia and Massachusetts are very similar in that respect I think. And hey, we are both Commonwealths, right?

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  7. I like this post. There isn’t a whole lot of history where I live, so anytime I go somewhere with an old cemetery it’s like being a kid in a candy store…okay, sorry, bad simile.

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  8. I’m in Central California, so even our oldest civilized places aren’t very old, but our beautiful community cemetery holds one Civil War soldier, and honors our war dead with a community-wide commemoration every Veteran’s Day. I love the “connectedness” I find in a cemetery — even one where none of my special ones are buried. – Fawn

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    1. There are those who feel comforted by the presence of Old Ones in cemetaries … and the rest of the world who get all creeped out. There dosn’t seem to be a middle ground on this. I’m with you 🙂

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  9. When the grandkids were younger (teens now) we would spend hours after our one mile walk roaming and reading and wondering… It’s the perfect place to share our ancestor stories. Enjoyed the post!

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