Memorial Weekend heralds the unofficial beginning of summer.
Although the weather doesn’t always cooperate, a majority of American families plan bbq’s and get togethers. We visit friends, drink beer and soda, forego all pretense of diet, and call macaroni and potatoes, salad. We play ball and take Alka Seltzer before bed.
I grew up in Manhattan, and all the relatives were scattered throughout the five boroughs. Memorial weekend was marked with a trip to either Orchard Beach or Coney Island. Once there we met with friends of my Mom and Dad. These were people from the neighborhood that they had grown up with. The fortunate boys (as they called them) that had returned home from the war. These patriots always stood with hand over heart when the Star Spangled Banner was played, whether that be at a ballgame, or the strains coming from the heavy, D battery-powered radio at the beach. As children we were told to stand as well. Toddlers mimicked their elders.
I remember that there were parades held, but don’t recall having gone to them. My father and all my uncles served in World War II, but they didn’t speak of it. As a child I didn’t make the connection between Memorial Day, and the honor due the fallen of present and prior wars.
Years later my first cousins and I took this Holiday as one of the opportunities to visit and celebrate our bloodline. We brought along our own children, and the parents who remained to us. The aging reminders of ‘The Greatest Generation“. About this time, we had our own homes in the suburbs and all displayed the American Flag. Myself and cousins were first or second generation Americans. My mother was eleven months old when she arrived on our shores. That didn’t make us any less patriotic. I remember my Grandmother cooking up a feast for the 4th of July.
WWII, The Korean War, and The Viet Nam War were all behind us. We were a land at peace for a brief time, celebrations and silliness could be displayed without conscience. Despite that, the flag flew to boast our allegiance.
One by one my cousins passed on, or we lost touch. Our parents had long gone beyond the veil, and the glue that kept the extended family together seemed to lose its strength. We tired of the old traditions, or perhaps we just started to get tired. It’s a lot of work hosting these mammoth parties. Whatever the case, we didn’t do it anymore. Although invitations still came from friends. I hosted a few smaller events myself. Sometimes it was a happening each day of the three-day weekend. Party, party, party.
Our own children, grown, are now scattered about so getting together for Memorial Weekend is near to impossible. It isn’t the boroughs of New York City, but rather travel across many state lines for a holiday visit. Though the brave heroes of the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan are remembered, perhaps with a heavier heart because it is all so fresh. And I am now realizing how very young, and courageous they all are.
This year my Memorial Weekend was a working one for Jim and I. Though we manage to harbor some tidings of the day, or once again, three days. We supped with cousins, Tommy and Regina at Lombardi’s on the Bay. Caught a couple of evening baseball games. Yankees win 1, lost 1. Heard a few stirring renditions of The National Anthem, for which we stood, and God Bless America. Shed a tear for the fallen and wounded heroes of this current war, and those in the recent and long past. Ate the requisite hot dog and starch salads. and of course, always— Our beautiful flag waves with Command and Presence in the front of our house.
Thank you to the Men and Women of our Armed Forces, Yesterday, Today and Forever. The wind beneath our wings.