Memorial Day might just be the holiday with the most heads, huh?
It’s a day of reflection at it’s core, a day to remember the soldiers who have fallen.
But it’s way more than that too. And this holiday weekend, as I am hanging out with my three-year-old daughter/watching her closely/marveling at how fast she is growing up, I find myself wondering what’s the best angle of approach for this particular day.
Because, on one hand, standing at attention when the old soldiers march down the street in our little town is a valuable lesson to kids. It’s not necessary for them to be patriotic or anything at their age, they are way too young for that sort of thing. Yet, I know my daughter can sense when there are moments in life when we need to be quiet and attentive. I know she sort of gets it that there are times, in the middle of all of the play and crying and joy and ice-cream smearing all over her face, when something bigger is passing through.
I know she senses that there are times, every now and again, when we need to be respectful, even if the word itself is fifty blocks off her radar.
Yet, there are those other heads to contend with. The partying. The get-aways. The food and the drinking. The summertime kick off fanfare. Hell, even the sales at the mall.
The day is a Medusa of celebration. It’s easy to lose sight of one face in favor of another.
So, in considering the grilled hot dogs and cold beer on the deck/in the yard angle, we have to be careful. It would be easy to say that it’s what Memorial Day means to a lot of people. That too many people have lost sight of the real meaning. But, after considering it for a while, I think that’s sort of wrong. See, when I look at my kids this morning, I can’t help but think about the thousands and thousands of kids who have skipped across our country’s back pages without their daddy or their mommy around because they lost them in the war. I think of those kids and the massive hole that got forced through their life and I try and connect it with the other parts of this day and somehow things start to connect.
The dead are gone.
It is sad but it is true.
And the living remain. That is something that is often difficult to reconcile, but which never wavers in it’s reality.
And so what would the dead say then? The ones who left behind kids, the ones who would have loved to have kids but didn’t have that chance, what would they say, I wonder?
Would they look at the parades, at the solemn pride and the teary eyes and the children saluting by their Pop-pop’s side as Taps lays down all over the town like some giant elephant of unthinkable blues collapsing under the weight of the humid humid sky and say, “Yes, that is enough.”
Or, would those soldiers who left us all behind peer down from their cliffs, down down down, their open eyes tumbling down through the cold dark skies of space and then the warmer blues of home, slipping down unseen into their respective hamlets and harbors and farm lanes and city blocks to watch awhile from behind hedgerows or fat old trees, to see all those other heads dancing in the wind, all those hamburgers being savagely burnt/all that corn on the cob/ all those cans of beer sparkling in the early summer sun/all of those new babies falling in the grass/ all of those Wiffle balls/all of those fishing poles/all of those motorboats and RVs and four-wheelers and burning gas/all of that same flesh and blood that they used to carry around wrapped around other people, more strangers with each passing year, sitting in lawn chairs by the glassy lake/ their loved ones just out of reach, swatting their hands at the green flies of the living: would those soldiers look at all of that stuff and say, “Please don’t. You’re forgetting the real reason for today.”
Somehow, I doubt it.
Somehow, I feel like we’re doing it almost exactly right.
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