The first Sunday in May is tradition-filled.
There have been very few that I have not visited Hackleburg, Ala. And that's since early childhood.
It's Decoration Day at Cedar Tree Cemetery, where we honor and remember those loved ones who have gone on before us. And for many, many years, it was also a Frederick (my mother's side) family reunion.
We'd all gather at Pawpaw and Mawmaw's, just a block or so from downtown.
The wonderful memories are endless.
The yard to the side of the house was small. But somehow we'd always find a way to play touch football. And it sometimes turned into a little tackle, too.
It was all in good fun.
After Pawpaw and Mawmaw passed away, the annual get-together started fading.
I've talked to other families. It seems to often be the case.
The same held true on my dad's side of the family. After Pop and Mom's passing, the reunions faded.
My Uncle Mack and Aunt Kay renewed the Hackleburg get-together many years ago when they moved into Pawpaw and Mawmaw's house.
They kept it going for awhile. Mack always barbecued. Everyone else brought the fixin's. It was delicious.
But the tradition didn't last, due to age, travel and other reasons.
Then on April 27, 2011, a EF5 tornado ripped through Hackleburg. It leveled the house. Uncle Mack and Aunt Kay were there and somehow sur vived.
Even since then, my immediate family has continued to hold the first Sunday in May tradition dear to our hearts. I'm so very thankful for that.
My wife Pam learned about it soon after we started dating. And our children Emma, Andy and Erin have always experienced it, too, basically from their births.
My sisters, who live near Hackleburg, make sure beautiful flowers are on the graves of our parents and both sets of grandparents.
And we have nearly always made the drive to Alabama on the first Sunday in May, to visit the cemetery and hopefully see some members of the extended family (Fredericks or Burlesons) who we have not seen lately. We still work in lunch, too, usually at my sister's house.
Plus, I always drive by the site where Pawpaw and Mawmaw lived.
This year we didn't make the trip due to the uncertainty of this Coronavirus pandemic. There would have to have been a lot of hugging no way around that on the first Sunday in May. In my mind, social distancing would have pretty much been impossible.
And we're all getting older and more at risk.
It just didn't seem the same for me on Sunday, May 3. I can't explain it.
I considered going anyway.
But then we decided it best to wait when we can enjoy our time together much more when we don't have to wear face masks; when we can share those hugs; when we can sit around the table and eat together, not six feet apart.
No doubt in my mind, it will be great.
But then it won't be the same either. That's because I had to skip the first Sunday in May — an important tradition.