Magazine article Commonweal

Remember Me

Magazine article Commonweal

Remember Me

Article excerpt

The day before Palm Sunday, my grandfather buried my grandmother in a soaked and blackened grave at Assumption Cemetery. His place would be at her side; already the marker stood with both their names engraved. It was very near the cemetery gate, as he wished, so the two of them could go for evening walks.

But there was no talk of twilight walks the day before Palm Sunday. Not much talk at all as children, grandchildren, and relatives to the third degree shivered under a makeshift tent. We huddled for warmth and strength around the old chief mourner, his eyes puffy and red.

On Palm Sunday we huddled in my grandparents' warm and well-lighted dining room with its scrubbed linoleum floor, refrigerator, the small-backed chair in which Grandma had died, and the oversized table around which the family lived. Some of the third-degree relatives spilled over into the parlor; others fussed in the kitchen.

But the main attraction was in the dining room where paisanas from the old country cut and wove strips of palm into intricate crosses, flowers, braided baskets and loop de loops. All around the table fingers wove in and out, while Grandpa with his hands folded on the table, his eyes shining, told stories about crossing the ocean seven times--twice free--about laying tracks for the Union Pacific for twenty cents an hour, about marrying Grandma over in the old country and leaving her too soon to fight World War I, about returning with his buddies on a "freelough" and finding my father, then a little boy, trailing GIs for cigarette butts. When the war was over, they packed Grandma's crocheted tablecloth and Grandpa's Victrola with the loudspeaker into a trunk and immigrated to America with my father and his brother.

I left the weaving of palm and stories and went up to the attic. …

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