Memorial Day! In my childhood, it was always May 30, the first day of summer, the start of those warm/hot/humid days of no school, long hours of daylight, catching fireflies, and trips to the lake. For me it never got any better than this.
When I was a kid, we always went to my Grandma's house for Memorial Day. This was my dad's mother and the house he grew up in was next door to a sort of community center for their small town. I remember there was a gym inside as well as other types of meeting rooms and offices. The gym was the setting for the first part of the Memorial Day ceremonies. Speeches and other boring stuff happened in there.
The best part was when we left the building and all the kids picked up the bouquets of fresh flowers they had gathered earlier. Lilacs, irises, bridlewreath, a late tulip and anything else that might have been blooming in my Grandma's yard had been carefully cut and wrapped in wet paper towels and tin foil to keep them fresh. With the high school band leading the way, my cousins and I got to march all the way to the cemetery on the other side of town. All the way across the train tracks!!! One year we even had to wait for a train to go by.
When we got to the cemetery, we ran to find the headstones belonging to our own Great-Grandmas and Great-Grandpas, and even my own Grandpa. He had a tiny American flag on his headstone to denote service in WWI. There was the traditional bugle playing taps and then the 21 gun salute. That was loud and scared me. I could never figure out how to hold my flowers and cover my ears at the same time. You had to wait until the last gun fired and then you were supposed to drop your bouquet.
And then we went back to my Grandma's for the usual small town summer feast. The rest of it I don't remember so much, just playing with the cousins, indoors and out, swinging on the front porch swing, my dad and his brother putting up the screens on the porch for the summer.
Because of this traditional small town ritual,I learned early on that soldiers were important people and they made the world a better place for kids like me. Some of them even had to die to do it. I didn't understand it all then but I do now.
I hope on this Memorial Day, so many years later, that you take a moment to remember those men and women who have given so much to the rest of us and those who continue to do so today. Cut some flowers, decorate some family headstones, and remember them. Just simply remember.
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