I have a confession to make: Memorial Day throws me for a bit of an emotional loop. Officially, it is a national holiday to remember those men and women who have fallen in service of their country. Unofficially, it’s the start of the summer season. All the excitement and happiness of parties and parades and the pool stand in direct contrast to the solemnity and gravity of the true occasion. How to handle that juxtaposition? And how to explain it to my kids?
On the one hand, my family’s all about the beginning of summer, with its barbecues and picnics. The kids were thrilled when I suggested that we take our pale Irish-German-Polish selves down to the pool right as soon as it opened on Sunday. C, in particular, has been asking me when it was going to open since February. I slathered them in SPF50, found their goggles and pool passes, and toted all kinds of stuff like the summer sherpa I am. The loudspeaker blared summer songs and the kids did handstands in the water and jumped from the high dive. S and I sat on the beach chairs (mine was in the shade — I can get a sunburn despite all precautions) and marveled that it was already the end of May. That was Sunday, and it was all about summer fun.
On the other hand, I’m overwhelmed by the enormity of the sacrifice that our servicemen and women make and have made for us — to say nothing of what their families endure. On Monday, we went to the Memorial Day parade and the route ended in the town’s cemetery. This year, a special presentation was made for Army Spec. Samuel Watts, who died just a week ago from injuries sustained from a roadside bomb’s explosion in Afghanistan earlier this year. I wondered how his family was bearing up, how his mother was doing. In the heat of the sun beating down on the cemetery, I realized that from here on out, this holiday would mark the loss of their son/brother. How do you say thank you to a family who has had to pay the ultimate price? Words seem to be so insufficient.
We talked to the kids afterwards, trying to help them square the circle of this holiday weekend. I’m not sure if they really understand the debt we owe to so many people to allow us to live here as we do. Honestly, I know I didn’t really get it as a kid; Memorial Day meant summer was here. As a mom, however, I keep thinking of all the other mothers and wives and families who have had to bear such a burden, and I feel such intense, conflicting emotions of sadness and gratitude, grief and pride — yet another juxtaposition of Memorial Day.
How was your weekend?