Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day

Photo by Jay Janner
What are your memories of Memorial Day? Do they include parades and picnics? Did your family decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers and flags? Are community remembrance services still held at your local cemetery?

The photo of the Boy Scouts honoring the grave site of a veteran stirs bittersweet recollections of childhood Memorial Day traditions--playing hide and seek among the tombstones while my mom, aunt and grandmother spruced up our ancestors’ cemetery plots; downing hot dogs and chips and gulping soda at the family picnic; standing along Shirley Street, watching, and later marching in, the annual Memorial Day parade.

The formation included the high school band, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, the fire department, fraternal and veterans’ organizations, and area political figures. Ending at the cemetery, everyone gathered for a solemn service to remember those who had passed on, especially the men and women who gave their lives as members of the Armed Forces.

During high school, I endured the intense heat of standing for over an hour in a stiff-collared, wool-blend band uniform, while a long-winded speaker rambled on and on. Oblivious to the holiday’s significance, my thoughts were already at the Country Club pool that opened that day.

When sweat trickling down my back brought my attention to the event at hand, I made bets with myself about who would faint first. Someone always did. My husband’s home stood directly across the street from the cemetery and his father would set up a first aid stand on the sidewalk out front. Rarely did a year go by that his assistance wasn’t needed in some way--to clean up a child’s skinned knee, to break an ammonia capsule under the nose of an overheated majorette, or to offer a cold drink to a thirsty VFW member.

As a child, Memorial Day was simply the kickoff to a summer of family picnics and good times at the pool. Now that my dad, grandparents, and several aunts and uncles have gone to be with Jesus, the observance has become more meaningful. Although neither my husband nor I mark the holiday by decorating the granite monuments of our loved ones, we now understand and appreciate the benefit of remembering—remembering what those who have gone before us have taught us by their words, their example, and their sacrifices.

©2012 Pamela D. Williams