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Donna Flood
Traditions of Memory

Ordinarily nothing could have pried Eveline away from the chores around her home. The rains had come this spring bringing with them only the green sweet beauty that could be, in what had once been a prairie. Even though the prairie was bordering the housing development there was its influence about them on their small tract. The trees, ground and bedding plants were all rich with their thankfulness for the season's moisture. Small birds and creatures were happy and playful as they boldly scampered on the lawn. They were fearless in this protected area and if a human happened into their space that person was treated in a friendly manner while the animal or fowl extended their own cautious welcome to what they felt was their domain.

This yearly duty was expected she knew. When her mother's friend called to remind her she was thinking her own thoughts. "Sometimes, I feel like the pieces of paper we ripped in strips in order to learn to weave when I was a child. We made a paper loom and one colored paper strip went over and under. The next strip went under and over until we finished the piece."

Those learned things were there for a reference at some future time and place. "One strip for the Christians, and this strip for the Pagans," she thought to herself. Because the habits and traditions of this great melting pot which had caught the spill over from Europe and who knows where else, was upon the populace it was very difficult to remain apart from them. They became woven together until it was a whole new fabric binding them in swaddling clothing like they were babies needing the security of tight fitting surroundings. The demands were more on her since the American Indian traditions of her mother were there also. They were practiced with more of a habit than the Christian celebrations. Their culture was so strong there was no escaping its hold.

Not for a love of a university, talent, scripture, or any other endeavor. Their only saving grace was the joy it gave her mother and the general common sense ways of the practice which always made for pleasant association of loved family and friends.

While Eveline rode with her mother's newer friend and the woman's daughter to the cemetery, she made an attempt to prepare them for this part of her folk's culture.

"There was a practicing of an annual get together at the sacred places where their folks were buried." She explained. "It wasn't like the Memorial Day of the Caucasian people." "It was more of the pulling together of the families of the tribe, some of which may have married away from their tribe into other groups." "These would come back to the places where their family was buried at this time."

"I truthfully do not know when it was combined with the Memorial Day held by their conquerors."

"It wasn't just a time to come clean up the graves but it was a time to get together." "They brought their new family members with them." "Lunches were packed and they stayed all day for the socializing."

Marty, the younger woman, commented, "Hey! I think that is really neat." "Did they actually, stay all day?"

Eveline was careful in trying to pick up on as much as she could to make the two newcomers to their older dormant blood feel secure and welcome at the place of their sacred grounds commonly called "The Indian Cemetery," which was usually to be avoided at all costs. Civilization had relieved the people of severe retribution for walking into the area but somehow, the impression remained and it could make them uneasy with being there.

"There are some things they will do that is different." "However, they are all pleasant practices and you will be treated as a welcome guest." Eveline was as usual weaving the strips together trying to explain carefully, educating, without being immersed in the beliefs so closely so as not to be able to see clear explanations. "For instance," She went on, "They will have bowls setting on the grave." "These bowls are filled with food, fruit and usually something the deceased person enjoyed." "My own father loved candy corn." "Mother will always have a package of that in the bowls along with the fruit and other gifts." "It is a poignant thumping of some part of one's brain which calls up the memories." "The pleasant memories." "These bowls will be gifted to someone who is close to the age and the personality of the person deceased."

As they walked up to the place where her family was gathered Eveline could see her mother had been busy. Setting on the grave of her father were the traditional baskets, and the newer habit of glass bowls filled with fruit and gifts. There was one larger bowl which held a strong red tartan looking fabric wrapped in clear plastic to protect it. The label told that it was a light throw for furniture. Eveline smiled and was reminded of her father's Scottish blood. Under it was a very nice shirt with the characteristic American Indian designs. She picked up the label to read it. "Crossbow." Crossbow was the brand name of the shirt. Under the crossbow was a long arrow with the fletches of the arrow marked in red. Eveline for a moment could feel her father's presence.

"Son," it is your place to hand this largest of the bowls to the appropriate person," Eveline's mother spoke to her eldest son.

No sooner had she made the statement, a gentleman walked up to shake the hand of their ageing mother. The man was a minister of one of the Christian churches for the Indian people and was dutifully strong in caring for their needs in times of joy and crisis. With no hesitation Eveline's brother reached down to the largest of the bowls holding the tartan, the shirt, and other small gifts. He handed the bowl to the gentleman who was very courteous in his acceptance of the bowl.

Eveline pointed out the red plaid, and the crossbow on the shirt.

"I know," The gentleman who was in every way appearing to be full American Indian replied. "I know." "My folks were McDonald."

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