A Few Thoughts On Memorial Day


For the past 20 years or more, I’ve been hosting a Memorial Day picnic at my home, inviting family and friends and friends of family  . . . anyone who wants to come over and have a hamburger with a crowd of near-strangers. The guests may change but the menu doesn’t: it’s the typical American picnic food: hamburgers, bratwurst, potato salad, baked beans, lemonade, chocolate cake, and whatever anyone else cares to bring along. What’s better than picnic food? Answer: Nothing.

We’re not an especially patriotic family but I think we’d all say we feel blessed to be living in America, and we honor those military men and women have and who continue to defend this country so that we can wake up every day knowing we’re safe and free. Service personnel everywhere, living and dead, I thank you. My family thanks you. That is the end of my Memorial Day speech.

My dad served in the Army in WW2, though I’m not sure where he was or what he did, since he did not share this information with us. I do have a letter he wrote to his parents from Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, in 1943. In it he says the he is doing well, and that the thing he wants most is a Parker 51 pen that apparently would write under any circumstances. It is poignant to me that his wishes were so small: a fountain pen.

I wish he were here. I wish I could have bought him one.

In 1966 I married a soldier and did a 9 year stint as an army wife. It was an interesting life in which we met a lot of great people and I began to understand the sacrifices military families make. When Charles decided to retire from the army after 17 years of service, so very close to retirement, I decided to retire from marriage. It was so long ago that I often say that my marriage seems like it happened to someone else; that I am just remembering someone else’s memories.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s picnic because whether it rains or not (and we have done our share of garage grilling) it always is a great time with family and friends, and for me it signals the kickoff to summer.

And we need a picnic. It has been an emotional week for me, what with Lily (the bear) and her cub being separated Friday before last. After watching Lily from the time she was hibernating in her den and about to give birth, and then seeing what a gentle and funny mother she is,* it was stunning to me that she would leave Hope sleeping in a tree and wander off for 50 hours. I’m sure there was a reason for it, but nature is mysterious to me, like the wind chill factor or which one does the revolving, the earth or the sun. But due to a series of fortunate coincidences, Lily and Hope were reunited last Wednesday, a video I have watched and wept over about 130 times by now.

But I digress.

The other emotional event happened on Thursday at work, when a recently returned soldier (Corey) came to Advanstar to present us with a certificate and an American flag that had flown for one day in Iraq (“in the face of the enemy,” he said, which even now gets me all choked up)  because last winter we had taken up a collection of gifts for our troops over there. Corey is the son of one of our employees, who introduced him to the group, and when he started telling us about the flag, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house, or on the deck, as it were. Funny to think that the things we donated, packed up and shipped over there would result in this kind of extraordinary Thank You note, but I know I will never forget the day.

So between the reunited mother and cub and the reunited mother and soldier son, it was an emotionally charged week.

Sometimes you just gotta cry. And sometimes you just need a family picnic.

This year we have some new additions to the family, including baby Gabriella (whose subsequent weeks are not going as smoothly as the first, because apparently babies take a while to consider their new surroundings and then all hell breaks loose) and whose mother is now considering “Gripe Juice,” a name that cracks me up and which is something I’d like to keep in a bottle at my desk; and Katie’s fiance Eric. Next week youngest sister Krista will be married to Davin, and so the family grows and grows. It’s a beautiful thing— More people to argue with and get irritated over. (Just kidding, dear family.)

So the cake is baked and the potato salad is in the refrigerator, and the gang will convene tomorrow at noon and we will all be glad to be together.

I hope you are doing something special for this weekend, and that you’ll take a moment to remember those who’ve gone before us.

Corny, huh? But heartfelt.

Happy Memorial Day. Happy summer to you!

*Oh, PS: Check out the “Dislodging the Cub” video at bear.org. Or, if you just want a really good cry, watch the “reunification” video of Hope finding her mom. It’ll make you forget all about Old Yeller.

2 Responses to “A Few Thoughts On Memorial Day”

  1. Marilyn says:

    Wish I could join you for the picnic. The mere mention of your chocolate cake has my mouth watering. We have a quiet day planned. Just a small get-together with neighbors with Bob grilling his famous BBQ ribs. We will also be flying the flag and remembering those who have gone before us. Enjoy your day!

  2. Cathy says:

    I hope you all had a simply wonderful family day together. Always wish I could be there too!

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