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Mindy Learns (part three)

My name is Mindy. On this sunny morning I was standing on the green grass. It was a beautiful May day. I was alone. I had left the house early and I watched as the sun rose in the east. It was casting long shadows. I could smell the aroma of flowers in the air, and the evergreens were gently trembling in a soft breeze from the west. Usually I would have slept late, as most teenagers do, on a day off from school.

I was a Junior now and doing well because I'm rather bright. I'm not bragging, but I always have been smart. But Mother keeps me from being too proud. She's good at bringing me back down to earth. I lived in my mind a lot, but I'm popular with a certain set, and I have enough friends. Most of them are like me, interested in the things we find important in life, like science and art, and other kind of deep subjects that most teenagers ignore as much as possible.

I was thinking of my Meme. Memories came back of the many times we were together, walking down the gravel roads of this small town we lived in. Mother was often working, and Meme was always there for me. I was quite young then. Meme was French Canadian and still had an accent. She was born in Quebec Province, in the town of Arthabaskaville. She had crossed the border in 1918, after the War to End All Wars.

I never laughed at her accent. I loved my Meme. We walked a lot. It was our main entertainment when we were alone. I learned about the world around me in those long walks, seeing the trees flower, go to seed and then change into lovely colors of red, and gold, and dusky brown. I saw things grow and then slowly die. We greeted friends as they walked, and Meme told me stories of all the brothers and sisters she had in Canada. Most had also crossed the border. Meme was the youngest. By that time in my life most had passed away.

I thought of my Pepe. I remembered he was French also, but he was born in New England. As a child I had confused this with the country of England. I still smile at the memory. Actually he was born in Massachusetts. Pepe was a gardener. He had always gardened here in our small town. He grew all kinds of vegetables and fruits. He loved to eat them. The whole family did. He had brambles of fruit like blackberries and raspberries, and other fruits, like blueberries and strawberries. He even had one apple and one peach tree. We always had lots of fruit pies.

Meme was a good cook. She had learned to cook with whatever she had in the Depression years when Mother and her sisters, my two aunts, were growing up. Pepe had nurseries during the 1930s and 1940s. He had one in El Cajon, California, and one in Alma, Arkansas. They traveled a lot in those years. He always built their homes with his own hands. I was remembering that he had been a lumberjack in Maine. And he had worked building a bridge across a river in Louisiana.

I've talked to my brother a lot about religion. And about life and death. Gary is an atheist and doesn't believe there is a god. He told me he thought that people, after they died, still lived on in our memories. As long as we remembered them they still lived. That's his belief. But he's happy to tell me about all kinds of religions. Meme was a Catholic, and I had discussed with Gary the beliefs of Catholics. And also of Christians of other types and creeds. These all believed that we would live again after death. Some believed in a place called Heaven and some believed in a place called Hell. Catholics also believed in Purgatory. It could be a little confusing, but I don't mind thinking about it. I like to think.

Some religions believed that we all came back again after we died as something or someone else. This was called reincarnation. Hindus believed this. So did other religions. They also believed in a god, and some thought there were many gods. That is appealing to me. I like to think that we could all come back again and live a wonderful life, especially those poor people who had a horrible life the first time. I would have to think about it some more.

I'm looking out over all the little flags and flowers and thinking of all my relatives who have served their country. I hate war. I hate the fighting and the killing. It's always a hard thing for me to think about the terrible things that happened in life. But I do. And I'm happy that my brother served, and so many other relatives have served, and that none of my relatives have died in the wars. That's a good memory.

On this day my Meme and Pepe are living again. They're alive in my heart and mind. I have so many memories of them to go back to over and over again. And I can share those memories with Gary and with Mother. They're still here for me. It makes life very good. 

I wanted to come here to the cemetery alone to have time to think and to remember. The sun is higher in the sky. Soon more of the family will arrive. The tombstones were casting shorter shadows. Every grave has a flag on it. The boy scouts do that every year. They put little American flags out. And so many garlands of flowers on a lot of the graves. Not all. Some people don't have anyone to remember them anymore. That can be sad to think about.

Meme is buried here. Pepe's ashes were spread here, and over his garden at the old homestead. I'm tossing some glittering confetti into the air and watching it flutter down onto the grey, granite gravestone with the real names of Meme and Pepe.

I can smile now. I knew this was going to be a happy day. On this Memorial Day I still remember Meme and Pepe.

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