Most of us have experienced the loss of a loved one and will choose to remember them on Memorial Day. We visit gravesides with spring flowers and reflect back on the happiest times we had with our mothers, fathers, siblings, lovers, and friends. We may also reflect on the unrealized dreams our loved ones had and feel regret. For that matter, we may reflect on our own lost dreams from childhood that had morphed over the years as we made decisions in our lives. Unrealized dreams don’t have to be viewed as regrets over past decisions we made, that would change the course of our lives. Nor should we regret them because the one whom we planned to live those dreams with have gone away. I refer to those dreams as “Yesterdreams”. Yesterday’s dreams that were put aside as the reality of life altered them. There is still time to plan those dreams and try in some small way to bring them to fruition. They maybe won’t look the same, but you are able to reflect fondly on them with the idea in mind that they are not regrets, just put away for another day.
When I was in High School, I dreamed of becoming a historical romance novelist. In no way did I have the thought capacity to do so, and besides I very much disliked English class as well as trying to navigate proper written grammar. So, I put away unrealistic young girl dreams and made decisions that put me on the course to this moment. Here I am, a woman of a certain age now, writing a blog. It’s no novel, however, it is in some small way how I brought to life my “Yesterdream” of becoming a novelist.
Memorial Day wasn’t officially recognized until 1966 even though ceremonies had been occurring since 1868. The Sullivan family would not have any recognized Memorial Day on their calendar, but in Sunnyside, Ann had her own activities in order for the children to remember Rollie and his “Yesterdreams”.
Rollie loved children and dreamed of having a large family. He was always so happy when each one was born, as well as, protectively raised Ann’s oldest daughter as his own. He would have had many “Yesterdreams” he wanted to share with his family. One such dream that we do know for sure was picnicking. Through the years as Ann busied herself with raising five children and working as a single parent, she didn’t have a lot of time or money to really talk about all the dreams she and Rollie shared as they would not be able to be fulfilled, and they would be regretful. However, Ann did fulfil the one small dream with the family as often as she could manage, and that was family picnics.
“Mama, can we see Phil the Gorilla first?” asked Rodney excitedly from the back seat as Ann drove the Sullivan clan to St. Louis. It was a beautiful May morning, perfect to take the children to the zoo and to visit Rollie at the cemetery in Webster Groves. Small puffy clouds dotted an endless blue sky while the St. Louis Arch comes into view haloed by a flight of birds scouting for treats on the ground. This would be the best time for the children to hold remembrance of their father as Spring fades away to more busier Summer activities.
Rodney bounced in place on the big bench seat across the back of the Buick. “Aunt Wash told me, that Phil will wait until people get close to his cage and splash them from his swimming pool!”, continued Rodney as he fell back laughing at just the thought of water splashing the girls. “Wouldn’t that be a sight Cookie?”
“It would not!”, Cookie scolded. She turned back towards the front as she leaned up to Ann, “Mama, tell Rodney it would not be funny at all. I don’t want Phil to splash us with water!”.
“Cookie, it’s alright, please sit back in your seat”, soothed Ann, “we will stay back away from the cage”. Ann continued to navigate traffic on the bridge crossing the Mississippi River connecting Illinois to Missouri, as she drives through to Forest Park and the zoo. Once she entered the park, she looked for a nice spot to picnic. Forest Park was a beautifully designed park for picnickers in mind. Families like Ann that couldn’t afford to eat in the zoo, could pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a meal surrounded by tall trees and flowering shrubs. Late blooming spring flowers dotted small mounds around trees and knolls.
Rising early that morning Ann fried chicken, made potato salad, and baked yummy chocolate chip cookies as well as prepped fresh early spring fruit. Packed to bursting in the basket along with several bottles of Coca-Cola and a thermos of cold water, completed the meal meant for a king.
Later, sitting on Grandma Della’s big patch quilt watching Rodney chasing the girls with a frog he captured, she thought she could feel Rollie sitting there with her. She felt him on the breeze as she breathed in the relaxing sunny scents of the spring geranium, rose and lily. The breeze was cool as it swept in from the shade bringing the scents of all of the green fern florals of the wooded areas.
She felt the warmth of Rollie sitting next to her as he leaned back on one elbow, nibbling on the last of the grapes and strawberries. Closing her eyes and lifting her face to the sun, Rollie is manifested so vividly in her mind just from smelling the floral breeze, the comforting musk from the grassy earth underneath the quilt, and the prominent scent of the grapes and strawberries. She lets herself remember everything. She looks at the children and can see his every trait. His strong serious side and sense of family and work ethic she sees in Cookie, and his crazy sense of humor that she already can see coming out in Rodney. He gave his sensible but adventurous nature to Bonnie and his trusting nature to Colleen.
All the scents in the air and the joy of the playing children let her remember the “Yesterdreams”.