Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

As a child I recall Memorial Day meant a picnic with aunts, uncles and cousins at Grandma and Grandpa Apfel's home. They lived on Main Street in my small home town.

Memorial Day meant a small town parade, starting "downtown" where the route began near the Post Office and ending in the cemetery. As a Girl Scout and later in marching bands, I was always a parade walker.

I knew going by Grandma and Grandpa's house meant looking to my right and seeing so many familiar faces on the curb smiling back at me.

As the parade past the house family members would gather up their legs and follow the parade to the cemetery for the memorial service.

I recall walking into the cemetery with band members. The drum line would change the cadence to just a simple beat on the drum. It echoed off the trees. Grave stones were fresh with flowers and the American flag, signs that family members had been out looking after their loved ones.

The service was always simple. A local minister starting off with the invocation. A Veteran to speak of wars of the past. Vietnam seemed so far away though definitely part of the present - a mention in our newspaper - a whisper in a store of someone's son who was fighting. The ceremony always ended with one of the long time residence placing a wreath at the memorial site. After a benediction the crowd would disperse.

This was when my family would walk to the two family plots. Not so very far from one another. One for each side of the family. In between was so much history. I have always been fascinated by the stories that might be.

I left home when I joined the Navy. I was proud to serve. I married a Navy man and was proud to support. Our son joined the Navy and I was proud of our family tradition.

When we returned to my hometown we sat on the side of Main Street and watched our oldest daughter walk the parade route playing her flute in the band. We followed the parade to the cemetery and walked amongst the gravestones with our children. The family gathered at my parent's home.

A tradition lived on.

This Memorial Day weekend we are miles from 'home'. My parents no longer live in our hometown. I know they've been to the cemetery to clean up the grave sites of our family members. I wouldn't be surprised to hear they've returned to our hometown for the parade.

Our own children are scattered. We don't have a family tradition. But I hope they will stop at some point during the weekend and recall the sacrifices made before them so that they may enjoy the freedom every day.

Happy Memorial Day to you!

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