Memorial Day for me is the motherlode of memory. Not only in thanks for generations of soldiers who left their homes for war, but for those who have cycled in and out of my life and left their imprint on the person I have become.
I remember my father getting up early on Memorial Day to scrounge around in the garage until he found our big American flag. And just as he secured it on the light post at the end of the driveway we’d hear the blaring horns and pounding drums of the approaching parade, calling us to the top of the street to watch.
Then we’d follow the string of uniformed bands, shiny classic cars, and lines of eager Girl and Boy Scouts to the historic, old cemetery past the curve in the road. There, an honor guard would salute old, old men in strange uniforms with gunfire amid the graceful, centuries-old white monuments to the town’s fathers and mothers.
Later, we’d join dozens of others at a day-long party at a friend’s pool, eating until we were sick, and playing blissful hours of hide-and-seek far from our parents’ view in a massive meadow that is now … a neighborhood.
In the evening, as the fireflies blinked, I’d pray for the day to last. But it never did, of course, leaving another whole year to wait.
This Memorial Day my thoughts will be in many places. With family stretched far across the country, and in my own little town where we will fly our flag, and walk to the local parade.
I’ll also spend a few moments in my old hometown, where those friends have moved on to their own lives, and visit the graves of my parents and my oldest sister who are now at rest in that same old cemetery.
Memorial Day means many things to me. Summer is coming. My birthday is close. The end of school is within sight for the kids. At this time of year I live for endless sunny days that stretch into cool dusky evenings. I long painfully for something I can’t verbalize that is just out of reach as the light fades.
I’ve come to think it’s the heart’s way of ensuring that we remember who we are and where we came from as time marches on. That we need to hold on to who we loved. And who loved us. Because those moments in time are the things that sustain us from one generation to the next.