White Rose Wreath
Vernal rebirth to our small coastal island seemed to come much
later than any where else in the state of Maine.
By Memorial Day, April showers had not yet kept its promise of
Due to this annual shortage, ingenious island women made up this
deficit by spending days with scissors in hand, crafting miles of
crepe paper into floral facsimiles fit to grace cemetery lots of
their deceased loved ones.
Grammie was master of this art form.
She would cut stacks of pink, red, yellow, and white petal
shapes. With her nimble fingers, she pulled and puffed them into
lush fullness. With a rolling motion of the scissors, she fluted the
petals' tips. By attaching and overlapping those petals to green
paper wrapped wire stems, roses magically burst into full bloom. Or
sometimes, small buds.
My favorites though were the single petaled white flowers with
the long yellow stamen. Grammie told me they were calla lilies.
Years later, I saw my first real calla in a florist's shop and
recognized it immediately. I still marvel over their simple
elegance. Several of these exotic beauties have a home in my garden
Patiently, Grammie taught me the fine art of petal arranging.
My first attempts weren't very professional, but when mine were
combined with hers in vases, they became breathtaking bouquets.
After the flowers were completed, Grammie dipped them in melted
paraffin. Instantly, they were transformed into translucent splendor
that rivaled the real thing. With a bit of imagination one could
almost smell their fragrant scent. I'm not so sure that Grammie
didn't drop a bit of her Evening in Paris perfume from the cobalt
bottle into the melted wax.
As Memorial Day approached, our teachers explained its
significance as a special time to honor and show appreciation to
fallen American soldiers. In the mid 50s, WWII was still a haunting
memory to many.
To commemorate Memorial Day, students and teachers marched from
school to the nearest wharf. One of the teachers offered a prayer of
thankfulness for soldiers who willingly paid the ultimate sacrifice
for their country. After singing God Bless America, a student
solemnly tossed the wreath of white roses onto the waters of the
Atlantic Ocean in honor of those buried or lost at sea.
Seeing those white flowers floating on the cold, dark ocean
waters left me with an indelible memory and a feeling of sadness for
parents who'd never be able to welcome their loved ones home. In
profound silence, we returned to school to be excused.
Island women no longer painstakingly make their paper roses.
Plastic Memorial flowers became a much easier alternative. The
school's tradition of tossing the white wreath into the ocean ended
as well. I do not know why.
But I do know how my entire being filled with awe, knowing I was
part of a small band of children and teachers to remember and honor
the brave men who gave their lives to keep America a place where
May they never be forgotten.
~ Kay Seefeldt ~
[ by: Kay Seefeldt, Copyright © 2005, ( birdnest @ megalink.net ) -- submitted by: Kay Seefeldt ]
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