Countdown to Christmas #7- The Laying of the Wreaths (or What I Did This Weekend, Part 1)

Part 1

Here it is, Monday the 14th. It’s a sad day for me, but I’m not ready to blog about it just yet. I’ve been in remembrance mode all weekend and I just need to get into the spirit of the season. And I’m happy to say I’m there. I’m not ready to sink down into sadness just right yet.

I want to blog about my weekend, but you might want to wait for the “Saturday Night” installment of this blog. I’m documenting my Saturday morning with Dad not only so I can remember what we did and where we went, but throwing out the names of my relatives on the Interwebs might bring interesting results. If you want to read about my dead family members then have at it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Saturday Morning:
After losing Zombiegirl and MR to Putnam Valley (him hunting, her shopping with Aunt Laura) I was free to spend five hours traveling the length of Long Island and Queens with Dad. He had asked me a month ago if I would come with him to place wreaths on our family’s graves. I knew he and Mom did this every year after taking it over from my Aunt and Nana Frances, and I knew it was important to him- he already had the wreaths in the car when he asked. So we made a date for early Saturday morning.

After breakfast at the Venus, we headed out to Pinelawn, where my brother and mother are interred. Okay, here goes- I’m acknowledging my brother’s death today, 20 years ago. But I’m not going to dwell. Don’t want to sink…not yet.

Out in Pinelawn, Dad placed a miniature Christmas tree in front of their stones. I hadn’t seen Mom’s engraving since the last time we were out there to place her ashes in the niche, so it came as a little bit of a shock and I got a little bit choked up. That’s okay, though, perfectly normal response, right? Not going to let this day get me down. Dad and I were having a great conversation about practically everything. I didn’t want to get all emotional and bring him down, too. A few tears, a kiss on each stone and we’re off to the next cemetery. I don’t remember my Uncle Ed very well. I remember his girlfriend at the time, Doree, though. (She was one strange peacock- always decked out in jewelry and makeup- even though she was in her 60’s. Dad claims she was a hooker. I always thought she was glamorous. I was five. What did I know?) Uncle Edward Ellsworth Hewlett is buried in the U.S. National Cemetery. I was truly amazed at the amount of all the soldiers buried here and the military precision in which the headstones are placed. Straight lines in EVERY direction, as far as you can see. Truly amazing. We placed the wreath, Dad told me a few stories of my Uncle, (one of Nana Ethel’s nine siblings) I snapped a few pictures and we got back into the car.
Why does it feel 20 degrees colder at cemeteries?

On the way out of the cemetery, I see a man about my age bend down to kiss the headstone of his loved one. A father? A son? A daughter? Tears sprang back into my eyes as I witnessed this very tender act. Crap. Don’t let Dad see me cry…

My beloved Nana Ethel is buried in Trinity Cemetery in Hewlett. My family founded Hewlett, Long Island- but unfortunately none of the money trickled down into our hands. We hit this cemetery next because it’s close to the Lawrence Costco, and I needed to pick up an art desk for the nieces and nephew. Dad recently had Nana’s name added to the Pfeiff headstone. One of my Mom’s last requests (of me, actually- I totally dropped the ball on this one) was to have Nana’s name engraved on the headstone. This was the first time I saw the new engraving. Her husband William is next to her and her mother and father (my Great-Grandparents on my Mom’s side) are buried on the left side of them. Don’t tell anyone- Nana and her husband are really lying reversed of their names on the headstone. Nana was supposedly slightly pissed when they engraved her husband’s name on the wrong side, but who’s going to know? Besides us…

Costco had the art set at HALF the price it was last week at the Old Westbury Costco. I like instant Manufacturers coupons! Yay for Christmas!

We drove back into Queens to visit Dad’s relatives. First stop, Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens. Seems Dad’s father, Grandpa-formerly-known-as-Pop-Pop, didn’t want to be buried in the family cemetery- he wanted something more peaceful and shady. Well, Maple Grove is pretty, but Grandpa is buried within sight of the Van Wyck Expressway overlooking the Good Samaritan Village. The nearest tree is around 30 feet away. Good planning, Grandpa! Lol! We had a little problem finding him- thank goodness Mom had written down the plot number. Howard Arfmann is the only Arfmann in our family buried in this cemetery. On the plaque in the ground (no headstone) there’s a spot for my Nana. According to my Dad, his father was ready to die- maybe to get away from my Nana? Now he’s going to spend all eternity with her, whenever my Aunt decides to place her ashes in the ground. Stop talking to your dead mother, Aunt Jean and get her buried. Or something. It’s really not healthy to have her keep you company! [snort] We placed a wreath on the cool metal vase that pops out of the metal ground plate and geared up for the next cemetery.

My Great-Grandma, Ida, and her spinster daughter, my Great-Aunt Marion are buried at Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Ridgewood.. This cemetery is so old, a bush that was planted around where my relatives are buried was probably three feet in diameter 60 years ago. The damned bush is over 25 feet wide now! If they ever cut this bush down, I won’t be able to find my folks. And in 15 years, it just might overtake my ancestor’s headstones. A family of five could live comfortably within it’s evergreen branches, it’s so big.

Anyway, Great-Grandma Ida Arfmann, Marion Arfmann and my Great-Grandpa, George Arfmann, whom I never met, are buried here. Great-Grandpa died 50 years before his wife! She never re-married, preferring to keep her daughter by her side as company. Aunt Marion was never allowed to marry. Seems weird now that I’m an adult, but as a child I loved these two women. Future blog post.

Cousin Mildred Arfmann (Dad’s father’s cousin) is buried with her parents right next door. Mildred was another spinster who preferred the company of her married boyfriend to actually finding someone available and settling down. She had a good life with him, though. He doted on her and she was able to maintain her independence. She loved MR so much more than my ex. She was the only one happy to hear I was getting a divorce. Mildred told it like it was- direct and overbearing- and I loved her very much, too.

I got some great pictures of some of the soaring angels at Trinity Lutheran. It got really cold and windy so we didn’t linger. Dad and I talked some more about our crazy relatives (another blog post) and then he dropped me off so I could start on my cookie baking. All around, it was good we did this together. Another tradition born out of necessity! Is it morbid that I took pictures of my family’s tombstones? I’m just afraid I’ll never find them again when it’s my turn to go cemetery hopping at Christmas.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of What I Did This Weekend.

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3 thoughts on “Countdown to Christmas #7- The Laying of the Wreaths (or What I Did This Weekend, Part 1)

  1. How can I contact you other then this blog? The family names you mention here are part of my family. Mildred's grandfather was my great granduncle.

  2. Pingback: Thanks For The Memories « Inner Pieces

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