Peonies

It was the only Memorial Day that dad displayed the 49 star American Flag because the next one happened after Hawaii became a State of the Union. This  necessitated dad to purchase yet another new Flag before Labor Day that year. Hence, the date regarding the spotty memory about Memorial Day was in 1959–the year of Alaska and Hawaii statehood.

Being the pack-rat he always was, dad must have stored the 49 star flag in its original box somewhere. Perhaps the flag was sold without my knowledge during his estate sale a few years ago. I wish I could have saved it. Aren’t 49 star American Flags collectors’ items?

I remember accompanying dad to the front porch of the family home. (We lived on Main Street in Wayne, Nebraska.) Dad needed to secure the flag pole more securely within the defectively designed angle bracket that held the pole at a 45-degree angle. Breezes would catch the flag and dislodge the pole enough to cause the flag to hang at a 90-degree angle. When the flag drooped to that level angle, the flag brushed the top of one of mom’s peony bushes.

Dad’s solution was to secure the pole to the bracket with a small “C” clamp. That allowed the flag to be displayed on windy days as well as during calm days. For the rest of his life, dad always kept that “C” clamp stored inside the box that contained the 50 star flag. I now own dad’s 50 star flag and the little “C” clamp. The defective bracket was left behind
because its mounting screws had been overtightened when dad moved it to his new house on the outskirts of town.

The 49 star flag isn’t the only thing my fuzzy memory recalls about that day 60 years ago. (Has it been 60 years already?) I remember hearing the radio broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 car race coming out of the speaker of dad’s black and grey Zenith portable radio. He always used the built-in electric cord but never purchased batteries for it because to buy radio batteries seemed like a foolish extravagance if you can just plug the radio into a wall socket.

{Out of curiosity, I just now Googled the 1959 Indy 500. That was the year when drivers Jerry Unser (the first of the Unser clan to compete at Indianapolis) and Bob Cortner were killed in separate crashes during time-trials earlier that month. The winner of the actual race that year was Rodger Ward who drove a Watson-Offenhauser race car.}

Anyway, my primary interest was not the car race; I was fascinated by the two peony bushes that flanked the front porch steps. Maybe half of the buds had opened into the plush, pinkish-white  flowers that smelled so sweet. The remaining spherical buds remained tightly closed. The most interesting things about the buds were the ants that crawled all over them.

Dad told me the ants were necessary for the buds to open and bloom. This made me even more curious about the tiny creatures so I consulted the family’s Book of Knowledge encyclopedia to learn more about ants. I found out that ants are not required by peony plants in order to open the buds. The insects simply like to eat the sweet nectar that the flowers secrete. I never did correct dad about the misinformation he gave about peonies and ants.

I don’t remember very much else about the day, back before the holiday was not yet the modern three-day weekend. I imagine that dad must have barbecued something and mom prepared her famous potato salad. There must have been cherry pie, because mom thought it was patriotic to serve cherry pie because of the George Washington cherry tree incident.

I think it’s odd that the main things I think about that holiday were ants, peonies, and the 49 star Flag.

Ciao
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this passage from professor and author Robertson Davies. “The little boy nodded at the peony and the peony seemed to nod back. The little boy was neat, clean and pretty. The peony was unchaste, disheveled as peonies must be, and at the height of its beauty… Every hour is filled with such moments, big with significance for someone.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, History, Hometown, Meanderings, Youth and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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