Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

I think it's safe to say that I come from a patriotic family. My grandfather was a Colonel in the Air Force. I remember him displaying the flag from a bracket and pole next to the front door of his house. My dad took up the tradition as well. We always flew a flag on important occasions.

Many people view July as the month for patriotism. And I remember our family gatherings on the Fourth of July. I remember that my cousins and I stopped at every flag along the street to say the Pledge of Allegiance. But more importantly, I remember Memorial Day. And I knew the meaning of that holiday as well.

I don't think there were many kids my age who knew the reason behind this holiday. They identified Memorial Day only because it heralded the coming of summer vacation. But I learned the meaning at a young age. In fact, I served as Miss Poppy for our local American Legion Auxiliary post when I was about eight years old. That year, I visited several area cemeteries, gave speeches, and placed wreathes on the flagpoles. To this day, I try to make my annual contribution by purchasing a veteran-made, paper poppy. I know it might seem like an insignificant gesture to some, but to me, it isn't.

My family had a Memorial Day tradition of it's own. Every year we made the trek to scattered cemeteries to place flowers on the graves of family members. Fillmore, Hinckley, Spanish Fork... Those were the important destinations for our family for the weekend. And as we tidied the headstones, and placed flowers and wreaths, we were reminded of who these people were, and why they were significant. I can't say I always enjoyed the hours-long car ride, but I recognized it's importance. And I did learn our family history in a way that made those far-gone people seem relevant to me and my life.

I know my mom worries that this tradition of placing flowers on the graves will die with her generation. And while I can't promise to locate all the family markers, I do recognize the importance of the tradition. And I won't ever forget the stories that my grandma shared with me. So, don't worry mom... When the time comes, I'll do my best to honor the tradition. Thanks for sharing it with me.


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