Geraniums, As Promised

family, memorial day, personal essay, small town life, Uncategorized

The Ghent Union Cemetery has a very old hand pump and a watering can. It’s about half a mile up the road from our house, surrounded by land that used to be the Gilbert farm.


Mornings were so painful for me as a kid. In fact, they still are! Yuck. I hate waking up. I mean sure, they’re beautiful, and everything is quiet and new and peaceful, but…I really like sleeping.

The bus came around 7:35 when I was in middle and high school. J and I would stand out at the end of our driveway in the chilly morning air and Mom would wave at us from the window and we would watch the bus appear around the corner far down the road and get bigger and bigger as it came closer. I’d sit with Jessica and when we were little, little kids we would play Miss Mary Mac and always hold our breath when we went past the cemetery until we passed a white house and then we could let it out again. Why? I don’t know.

Mom: Why are you holding your breath?

Me: You are supposed to hold your breath when you go past graveyards until you get to a white house.

Mom: Don’t do that, it’s superstitious.

Me: Okay.

(but sometimes I still did it, anyway)


I used to see cars there, and people, and sometimes backhoes. It was a club I didn’t belong to–having someone there I knew and loved. Now I do belong to that club. Yippee. I’d like to return my membership card?


Some things about the cemetery:

  • It is a very peaceful, pretty place.
  • The old pump is pretty cool.
  • I recognize so many of the last names on the headstones!


  • There is something about the idea of knowing where you’re going to be buried before you die. I saw a headstone–so elaborate!–and it is a husband and wife and it has their birthdates but neither of them have died yet! And their headstone is ready for them. How strange. For a long time now, I haven’t even known what country I’d be in from year to year, but Nana knew where she would be buried, and so did Doris. They knew where they were going after they were buried, too, and I’m with them on that one. Thank goodness I can look forward to seeing them again. Death is too hard without that hope. In fact, it’s too hard even with that hope, but would be unbearable without it.


  • The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) association puts flags on the graves of any serviceman. There are also plaques for where they served. This is my grandfather’s, he served in the Navy on the USS Texas in WWII and was at the D-Day Invasion. My other grandfather served in WWII as well, in the Pacific. History!