Monday, May 25, 2009

What is Memorial Day?



Happy Memorial Day : )!

Belle asked me on Friday afternoon, upon ascertaining that we did in fact have a three-day weekend, what Memorial Day was. That I wasn't able to answer her effectively ("It's for the veterans ... no, that's Veterans Day ... uh, it's for people who have served our country." "What does serve our country mean?" "Like, in the army." "What's the army?") bothered me a lot more than I expected. It made me realize how ignorant I am about certain things, things that I should not be so ridiculously ignorant about.

We got flowers to put on the graves of my stepdad, who was stationed in Germany during his time in the U.S. Army, and my maternal grandfather, who was on the Normandy Beach on D-Day. It occurred to me that I don't know where my paternal grandfather (who was also a World War II veteran, serving in the South Pacific) is buried, and that I wish I did so I could bring him flowers too. The whole situation made me want to go crazy and spread flower petals all around the flags decorating the headstones of those who were in the armed forces. I'm very patriotic in my way, and I just wish that I'd taken more time to think about the portent of Memorial Day.

So ...

Memorial Day is celebrated the last Monday of May. It was originally called Decoration Day and was set aside as a day meant to memorialize members of the American armed services who died in active service. Memorial Day dates back to the Civil War, and some traditions include VFW donations for poppies (think of the poem "In Flanders Field"), the Indy 500, a national concert on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, and family picnics and barbecues. Also, Memorial Day is generally considered the "official" beginning of summer in the same way as Labor Day is considered its end (Thank you, Wikipedia, for the quick history lesson).

The fact that I think of Memorial Day as when the beach house is opened, when my mom makes her first potato salad of the summer, and when I get a much-needed extra day off from work does not make me unusual, I don't think. That I make sure to put flowers honoring some of my relatives who served in the armed forces puts me on par with many Americans, but if you think about it, that's not even the purpose of Memorial Day (not that it's ever wrong to honor your dead, but ...).

Anyway, I'm glad I learned what Memorial Day truly is. I'm kind of embarrassed that I didn't know before, but I guess it's better to do something about your ignorance than to just let it simmer. I'm still not sure how to explain it to Belle, but at least I know how to explain it to me.

I think : )