... visiting Melrose once a year
Every year I look forward to joining my brother and sister-in-law for decorating the family graves in Everett and Melrose. Let me introduce you to my brother, John Grocott. He became my brother when he was twelve and I was seven – my widowed mother married his widowed father. He was a hard act to follow in a family. He excelled in athletics – a three-letter man at MHS going on to Dartmouth as an Olympic-class hockey player. He was also a good student winning the Harvard Book Award and even played the lead in his eighth grade operetta singing “Indian Love Call” at Lincoln School. He inspired me to do well and we got along fine. After Korea, John worked for Merrill Lynch, much of the time in Hawaii. He retired to New Hampshire.
My sister-in-law Judy Hawkes was a year ahead of me in high school. We pledged to the same townwide sorority and became friends as the cheerleaders (me) and the majorettes (Judy) traveled to the football games together. She grew up next door to my husband, her brother being Dick’s best friend. Judy was a nurse and together she and John raised a son and three daughters.
For over twenty years we have maintained an annual ritual – rain or shine. On the Wednesday before Memorial Day at 10:30 a.m. we meet at the Hilltop Restaurant in Saugus, leave one car and, loaded with tools and geraniums, we travel to six gravesites in three different cemeteries. In the past three years due to health issues we have gone only to Melrose to decorate two sites – one with three reds, one with three pinks.
This year we had a great experience at the gravesite of my mother and younger sister who was killed by a drunk driver at age nineteen. When we drove up, we were astonished to see that the hosta we had planted several years ago had grown to such gigantic proportions that we could hardly see the stone at all. Looking down the rows we decided this was indeed “hosta heaven”. No wild critters were keeping the hosta down. With limited tools, Judy and I began to clip off the leaves to ground level. We lugged three huge piles of leaves to the barrel but we were still left with an unmanageable plant and a huge root system that threatened to break all of our planting tools. A truck drove by and I moaned that I should have asked to borrow a shovel. When the truck circled back, I hailed the driver and asked my question. He said sure and that he would actually dig the root up for us. This was much more of a project than he had anticipated, but he probed and dug until the root finally came free. We discovered that he grew up on Florence Street, the route we used to walk from our home on Crest Avenue to the MHS every morning. We were so thankful for his random act of kindness. We then planted our three pinks in the large crater. They look pretty with the blossoms peeking up at ground level. We may have started a trend.
Back to our ritual. We return to the Hilltop Restaurant for lunch. In our growing up days, the Hilltop was a small gathering place on Route One sharing space with a few huge restaurants and scattered stores. Then the economy burst and today every square inch of land is filled with every franchise and independent store that one could imagine. The Hilltop itself seems to have shrunk a bit, not using the second dining room at lunchtime. However our annual meal of marinated steak tips (medium) is still delicious and enough to take some home for the next day’s lunch. We said goodbye to the herd of beef-on-the-hoof which always delights the traffic speeding to Boston.
If I am early enough, I try to drop into the weekly meeting of Melrose Mirror. It is great to touch base with Kay McCarte, my long-ago neighbor. I love meeting the other authors as they discuss the next monthly edition. We have so much in common writing about past times, the city of Melrose and subjects of interest to seniors. I try to get onto Route 128-South before three o’clock while the traffic is still relatively light. It’s a familiar ride, not changing much from year to year. Already I am looking forward to May of 2012.
June 3, 2011