Monday, May 25, 2009

Decoration Day

My family called it 'Decoration Day' when I was a kid.  I never asked 'why?' yet it was fun to decorate our bikes with flags, ballons, and streamers and ride through the neighborhood, blowing our bike horns.  We also had relatives over and ate outdoors.  Perhaps as a child I got the impression that Decoration Day was a salute to Spring, after the cold, hard winter had passed.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Today I know better.  It is more aptly named, Memorial day, although a festival to Spring seems so much more logical.

We have created a day to remember war.  Not only war, but death- often of men in the prime of their lives.  My eldest uncle died in WW I somewhere in France of pneumonia, not a gun shot.  No doubt, he was in one of those miserable trenches that each side dug, like moles, hiding from those in the other death-traps.  After the war, my grandmother went with other Gold Star Mothers on a ship to France to receive some sort of plaque and to see the grave of her son. 

The Army cap in the photo is from another uncle who served in WW II.  His sister had stored it in her closed, along with the 48-star flag, after his death.  As the lone surving nephew, I now have it.  The leather strap above the brim has rotted off,  along with some moth holes in the top.  I never got a chance to ask my uncle about his war years as he was a severe alcoholic and not welcome in our house.  His memories died with him at his early death.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Perhaps my oldest uncle died in Flander's Fields. I do not know, because our family never discussed 'war' things. Still, my life, as the lives of most Americans, is splattered with war memories on both sides of the Atlantic.  Many of my German relatives lie in their graves, having fought for 'righteousness.'  I snapped the photo below on one of my trips to Germany.  The phrase, 'Wir starben für euch!" atop the cross translates, 'We died for you!"  Indeed they did as did the American soldiers.  Christian crosses, Christian graves.  God is on 'our side.'

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