Saturday, May 29, 2010

Planting Geraniums

"Why do we plant red geraniums at the cemetery every year?"

For the past 10 years or so my kids have accompanied me to the Alger Cemetery on Cleveland's west side to plant geraniums at the Hoffman family plot. Before that, my mother and/or I would accompany my grandmother to do the same. We pull any weeds that need pulling (though lately they've been spraying a wide swath around each stone with extra strength weed killer so they are ringed with brown earth) then dig spots for each potted flower. The stones have shifted over the years. This year, my great-grandmother Vinnie Hoffman's stone was a full 90 degrees rotated, but was free enough that I was able to heave it back into position. We dug our holes and planted the flowers, then made the slow walk across the grass to the water spigot to fill our watering can. Some of the graves are familiar from our annual visits- the lamb marker for a child, now so worn the sandstone is hard to distinguish, the writing illegible, the Civil War veteran. With our flowers soaked in, I tell a story about Grandma and try to remember something about Grandpa (who died when I was 5), and explain the Mason's symbol on Great-Grandpa's stone.

We drove past the house on Valley View on our way out. It's really nice to see it- someone clearly loves living there. The front porch has hanging baskets of flowers, and a porch swing. I tell them about the porch glider that Grandpa moved from the basement to the porch each spring, and back again in the fall. He would also plant red geraniums in front of the garage, and along the side of the driveway each year. The picture above is Grandma, probably in the late 1950s, standing alongside the flowers she loved so well. The back yard was reserved for his prized roses. After he died, the roses died too (Grandma wasn't a gardener!) but she stuck with the geraniums.

Done with Alger, we drove south to Woodvale Cemetery, where my parents are buried. For the last three years, they've gotten geraniums too. The stalks from the spring daffodils were still there, though pretty brown. We trimmed things up, planted the geraniums and watered them well.

I guess we plant them every year because we've planted them every year before now. Routines, like celebrating Memorial Day or making sure we have red geraniums to plant every May, gives us a marker to remember those things too important to forget.

1 comment:

Jane said...

I thought about the cemeteries this morning: Woodvale, Sunset . . . but I couldn't remember the name of Alger! Thanks for reminding me.

Love that picture of Grandma. I looked at it for a long time.