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Our version of Memorial Day

I got about 4 hours of sleep, got up breakfasted, and went out to garden while it was still reasonably cool. A couple of hours later Duchezz got up, breakfasted, and joined me. Jane stopped by to get her flashdrive. Gardening continued until, walking over to say something to Duchezz, I realized that my bad leg was a dead weight. Told Duchezz what I was going to, then mentioned the non-responsive limb, to which she said, "Well, you're done for today." I concurred, gave her the short list of things I was going to do, but now couldn't, and went inside to shower.

She had mentioned that all she was interested in at this point was finishing up, air conditioning, and a cold beer. I concurred, so after she'd showered we headed off for Utica. We had lunch at 99 (because they have awesome air conditioning and Duchezz's favorite beer on tap), then went to Dick's to use Duchezz's coupons to replace our Coleman stove for Pennsic, washed the car, got ice cream. Then home.

Where I learned to hate Windows 7 even more than I thought I would. Actually, I was optimistic--everyone said it was sooooo much better than Vista. Well, yeah. In the same way arsenic poisoning is better than cyanide poisoning. I'd like my XP back, please. (And since this is my work computer, and I don't get to choose my operating system, any "Get a Mac" comments will be followed by banning from future comments. ;-p)

But, Duchezz also made a strawberry rhubarb pie (which was dinner), I made a pot of decaf, and we watched The Good Guys. I don't know if I like it, but it was diverting.

Best of all--it was a gorgeous day, so while we were out we saw:

1) a beautiful bright blue Mustang convertible,
2) a sexy, cherry red Mustang convertible,
3) a gorgeous, red, vintage Chevy Impala ragtop, with two equally well-preserved middle age males in the bucket seats in front, fishing poles sticking out of the back seat, pulling into the Gander Mountain parking lot.

Wow! A real summer car!


This is not to say we were unaware of why today is a holiday. But in the same way I get annoyed when people stand for "God Bless America," I get annoyed when Memorial Day become Veterans Day Redux.

If we are going to honor the day, it is to remember the fallen. Those who fell as soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, in war. We have picnics on Memorial Day, so one story goes, because it was part of the ritual to take a picnic lunch to the cemetery, and "share" lunch with the family members who were gone. As time went on, the picnics got a bit--cheerful, and those in charge of the cemeteries encouraged people to move the picnic elsewhere, after they left the cemetery.

And thus was born the Memorial Day picnic. The parade was an outgrowth of the processions from church to cemetery.

Somewhere along the line rather than honor the fallen, the day began to be about anyone who had served who is now dead, no matter how they died. Now, for the most part it has become about those who served, living or dead--which makes it, to my mind, indistinguishable from Veterans Day. In some communities both have become about anyone in uniform--armed forces and first responders.

I try to keep them separate--today is for those who gave the last full measure of devotion. Veterans Day is for the living former military. Armed Forces Day is to celebrate and honor the living in uniform. I'm funny that way.

But today isn't just for those who died. It has, for many years, been for me also about those who are left behind. I don't know if it was looking at Audrey's face the first time I saw her after Chuck's (MSGT Charles Bryant) helicopter went down. Maybe it was the song Linnette wrote when she realized what it would mean if the war was real, and Wulfgar didn't come home. Maybe it was standing there as Magnus Bloodaxe gave our unit their commands for the bridge--and suddenly, because he'd given those kinds of orders when it was real, and many of our unit had heard orders when it was real, for a moment it was real. And it was a suicide assignment. And if it was real, I'd have been one of those left behind.

Last year, on this date, I posted the words to "In Flanders Fields." This year, because I've seen far too many Gold Stars in windows of late, I post something else. (Historical note: This weekend is the Whitsun Bank Holiday in Britain. Memorial Day often falls on Whitsun weekend.)

(words by John Austin Marshall)

It's fifty long springtimes since she was a bride,
But still you may see her at each Whitsuntide
In a dress of white linen with ribbons of green,
As green as her memories of loving.

The feet that were nimble tread carefully now,
As gentle a measure as age will allow,
Through groves of white blossoms, by fields of young corn,
Where once she was pledged to her true-love.

The fields they stand empty, the hedges grow free--
No young men to turn them, the pastures go seed
They are gone where the forest of oak trees before
Have gone, to be wasted in battle.

Down from the green farmlands and from their loved ones
Marched husbands and brothers and fathers and sons.
There's a fine roll of honor where the Maypole once stood,
And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun.

There's a straight row of houses in these latter days
All covering the downs where the sheep used to graze.
There's a field of red poppies (a gift from the Queen)
But the ladies remember at Whitsun,
And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun."


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 1st, 2010 06:42 am (UTC)
Well said.
Jun. 1st, 2010 06:51 am (UTC)
I had a picnic in the cemetery on Sunday...
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )