I read of this woman, living in the USA, but born in Tunisia, who told of how her people keep alive the memory of those who have ‘left them’, and the more I think about it, the more I like it.
They certainly have no “Memorial Day” holiday, but they have their ways, and she told how, on the recent anniversary of her Grandpa’s death, her mother made their main meal of the day, ‘Grandpas’ meal. And she cooked and served food that had been his favorites and at the same time, her parents told stories of ‘Grandpa’s life, how he earned a living, and so on.
I think it’s a wonderful idea, and of course, is used on other death-anniversaries, too. No rules, but just a time of remembering and sharing, so that the now dead ancestors become real people to grand kids they never met.
Yes, and inasmuch as her ‘Gramp’ had lived in a different country, with different foods, the meal her mother prepared was not what their American born kids knew. But this was not their meal, but Gramp’s meal, and her mother, reached back to where Gramps had lived, and prepared ‘his’ meal as far as possible, of food that he knew, and ate. And which her kids could only wonder over.
Fish in a different way? Some food we never thought of as food? Vegetables and fish we do not recognize? An unfamiliar soup? It matters not, but the families this woman grew up with, make that meal as close as possible to food the honored one would have been familiar with.
She told that her Mom even tried to use the old ways of cooking it. And, as she served the unfamiliar food, the parents told stories about the person they were remembering. About when and why they came to America. What were the problems of finding jobs? Was it difficult to blend in with a new people in a new culture?
Told about the clothes worn, if they were different. Was it hard to learn a new language? She told how it becomes almost an on-going biography of how ‘their’ family had its Utah beginnings, and yet do not want their children to forget the old ways of where they came from.
And if the honored one grew up here in the U. S. tell of his/her young years. Stories that are real, where they lived, what kind of a house, outdoor plumbing, and to be sure to tell the whole story, telling of the difficulties as well as the triumphs.
Did the loved one live in a different State? Why did they then move to Utah? To go to a certain school? Marry and join in the ‘other’ family’s culture? There is a world of things to tell that make our ancestors not only remembered, but remembered as real people, not just a name on a genealogical chart.
Yeah, what did they do to earn a living. What jobs they held. How did they learn that trade? The tales are endless and met with wonder to know that those tales happened to one in their own family. Really happened and how Grandma wouldn’t know what to do with a micro and would wonder how to cook without a stove and fire. And where oh where, were the foods she loved and cooked?
The woman said it can be fun, for it will open up an entire world of family knowledge, of what Mom did as a young girl. Where she and Dad met. Where and how they lived. Plus what ‘odd’ foods they once ate.
The more I think of this kind of a memorial time, the more I like it and wish I could go back and try to duplicate for Dad, the kind of meal he had while still in Sweden and if he had missed and yearned for that food. If it had been hard to leave that home as a 10 year old. How it was in Salt Lake then, and not know the language. How did he learn it?
How my Great-great-great Grandpa and his mother came from England, crossed the Plains on foot, and he, a teenager, herded cattle to pay for his food, and his mother helped women with their children for the same reason. And why there was no male person with them. Or, if there had been one, why did they come without him? What happened to him??
Yes, I love seeing the flowers in the cemetery, and revel in how American the holiday is, but I also thank the Tunisian woman for telling how, right at the dining room table, our kids can not only hear the old stories, but also eat for their meal, exactly what their ancestors once ate for their meals. In an odd way, celebrating the anniversary of a loved one’s Death Day, could be utterly fascinating.