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 May flowers.

      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 window.

      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 freedom rings.

      May they never be forgotten.

~ Kay Seefeldt ~

[ by: Kay Seefeldt, Copyright © 2005, ( birdnest @ megalink.net ) -- submitted by: Kay Seefeldt ]


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