What does Memorial Day mean to you? I used to think it was just a Monday off, a day free from work or school, a time to inaugurate the summer grilling season and begin wearing white without fear of arrest from the fashion police.
In the past couple years, we've made more of an effort to honor the true significance of Memorial Day. It seems one of the rare opportunities we have to put patriotism into tangible action with our children.
We started off the day by meeting other Cub/Boy Scouts and their families at a nearby cemetery (personality quirk I may have mentioned: I love cemeteries. They're quiet, serene, and silently brimming with untold biographies.) We had a short speech, a prayer, and then the flag planting began. Every grave belonging to a veteran was marked with a small sticker, and for the kids, armed with flags, it was like a giant treasure hunt.
Eliza took it upon herself to add a few flowers.
Later that day, after more creek play with friends, we continued our family tradition of remembering our family's veterans. The Professor has a Prisoner of War journal kept by his grandfather, Pop-pop, during his tenure at a stalag during World War II (he eventually escaped, narrowly -- a story we wish we knew much more about). Like last year, we brought it out for a little show and tell, along with a map to illustrate Pop-pop's journey.
This year I added a read-aloud from my own grandfather's recently published memoir, in which he devotes a chapter to his service on a troop ship in the Pacific theater toward the end of the war with the Japanese.
It's not something we reflect on as often as we might, but I think we all went to bed last night feeling a fuller measure of thankfulness for the sacrifices -- of lives, of innocence -- of our own ancestors and their fallen compatriots.
It's a tradition worth keeping.