By Willow Vanderling from DIRE THREADS by Janet Bolin
Tomorrow will be my first Memorial Day in Elderberry Bay, also known as Threadville.
When I was growing up in South Carolina, I spent Memorial Day weekends with my Gramma. She lived in a small village known for its Memorial Day celebrations. In the morning, she took me to the parade. I always dressed in red, white, and blue. We both brought flags and nabbed a spot right on the curb.
People marched past, and Gramma stood there, waving her flag and crying. I could not understand why she always wanted to go to parades if they made her cry.
She squeezed my shoulder, wiped her tears, and explained, “It’s so beautiful.”
Beautiful? Cub scouts scuffed past in their uniforms, and Jeffie, the kid who lived across the street from her, caught me smiling and stuck his tongue out at me. What did he think, that I liked him? Gramma sobbed.
I turned around and told her, “It’s okay, Gramma. Jeffie was sticking my tongue out at me, not at you, and anyway, he’s yucky. Don’t let him hurt your feelings. You’re a wonderful Gramma.”
She squatted down and hugged me, and now she was both laughing and crying, and she said something even stranger. “They look like little soldiers in those uniforms.”
The music from the brass band vibrated through my whole body, and I wanted a uniform, too. But not like Jeffie’s. I wanted a shiny red and white one with gold braid and buttons.
Then we’d go back to Gramma’s and she cooked hot dogs and let me pour on as much mustard as I wanted. I got to drink root beer right out of the can. She always said I could decorate my bike and be in the parade if I wanted to, but if she was going to cry, I needed to be with her and comfort her.
At night, we went to the village square and listened to a concert in the bandstand, and when I stayed awake long enough, we watched the fireworks. Each time one unfurled above us, Gramma called out “OOOOH!” Tucking me in later, Gramma told me about her father, who had gone off to war. If we remembered him and others like him, she said, maybe kids like Jeffie wouldn’t have to wear uniforms.
Wouldn’t have to? Eventually, I took up the trumpet, but I lasted all of about five lessons, and I never got the shiny uniform. I could make one, I suppose. Threadville is all about creativity.
In Elderberry Bay tomorrow, there will be a parade down Lake Street to the park where the Elderberry River meets the beach on Lake Erie. We’ll all follow the tail end of the parade so we can greet the Great Canoe and Kayak Race competitors, winners and losers, as they come in after their hours of paddling.
There will be hot dogs. I will coat mine with mustard. I will drink too much root beer.
In the evening, the Fraser Construction Brass Band will give a concert in the bandstand. I hear that their uniforms are red and white, trimmed with gold braid and buttons. I can’t wait to see and hear Clay Fraser playing the trumpet.
At the fireworks, I won’t be able to prevent myself from calling out “OOOOH!”
I know, it won’t be like Memorial Day with Gramma, but her memory will be with me. I may even shed a tear when the Cub Scouts and Brownies march past.
What special things did you do on Memorial Day when you were a kid? What special things do you do now?
DIRE THREADS, the first book in the Threadville Mystery series, will be in stores and downloadable as an e-book on June 7.
Note from Janet: Remember last January, when Dorothy Parker, fresh from a murder investigation, visited Killer Characters?
J.J. Murphy, author of MURDER YOUR DARLINGS, is running a fun contest with great prizes. Click here to learn more about it and enter!