Human Condition: Cemetery cleaning and plenty of deviled eggs _lowres

 

It was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and as I woke up, I could hear my mother in the kitchen. I knew what she was doing. This was the day we were going to the cemetery cleaning, and she was preparing picnic food for us to take.

Rogers Cemetery was in Christian County, Kentucky, and my maternal grandmother, Maggie P’Pool, was buried there. My pop, P’Pool, would be there along with my uncles and aunts. It was a time to be with my cousins — four older boys; my younger cousin, Donna; my brother and me, the oldest girl.

We would run and play among the headstones as our parents cleaned the family graves. Late May was the perfect time of spring in Kentucky to work outside cleaning away all the dead grass and foliage left from the winter. We were very careful to not step on a grave as our parents told us that was disrespectful.

I noticed that most of the headstones were for people named P’Pool. When I asked why it was called Rogers Cemetery instead of P’Pool, I was told the Rogers family had donated the land for the cemetery.

Just as we were all getting hungry, our mothers laid quilts on the ground and brought out the picnic baskets. We gathered ’round to see what we would be eating. Yet we knew, it was always the same — fried chicken, pimento cheese sandwiches, homemade pickles, deviled eggs and lots of other side dishes with large Mason jars filled with iced tea. Aunt Lucille always squeezed extra lemon in her tea, so that was the one I wanted.

Dessert consisted of a variety — chocolate cake, tea cakes, apple pies. My mother always baked a banana cake with caramel icing for my cousin Charlie. He was my favorite cousin and that was his favorite cake.

We don’t have the cemetery-cleaning ritual anymore. My parents, along with the aunts and uncles, have gone to their eternal rest. My older brother and those older cousins are no longer here. Today I am left as the matriarch of my family.

When my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren get together, I think of those times so many years ago.

When it is time to eat, I can almost taste that fried chicken and those pimento cheese sandwiches. Our menus are not that simple anymore. Tastes have changed and become more sophisticated through the years.

However, there is always one request. As they come in the door I hear, “Did MeMom make plenty of deviled eggs?”

Yes, she did!

— Parsons lives in Baton Rouge

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