Thursday, May 22, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

There is no weekend I look forward to more than Memorial Day weekend--and I know that millions of Americans feel the same way I do.

In addition to the 30th birthday barbecue I'm attending, I plan to attend one of our local, smaller Memorial Day parades. For many years, I did not attend many Memorial Day parades because I marched in so many of them as a kid. (In my hometown, every Girl Scout, Cub Scout, and civic group marched in our parade). I figured that if you saw one Memorial Day parade, you'd seen them all.

Well, four years ago, I attended a down-home, small town Memorial Day parade in the Westfield section of Middletown. It was a Sunday afternoon, a beautiful day, and I hated to waste it, so I went for a drive and learned that there was a parade that day. I thought, "What the hell, I haven't been to a parade in years," and parked my car by the firehouse, where the parade originated. I sat down under a maple tree, got out my book, and read for a couple of hours while the crowds gathered.

Well, there weren't many crowds to speak of, since it was a small parade, but those who gathered represented a slice of small-town America. There were parents pulling their kids in Radio Flyer wagons festooned with American flags and ribbons. Young couples brought their dogs. Several generations of families came and sat along the parade route.

It was a small parade, as I recall; there were the requisite appearances by the Cub Scout and Girl Scout troops, the ministers from the local church leading the parade, and several veterans' organizations. At the end of the parade, we all walked a block to the nearest cemetery, where the mayor and the priest of the local Catholic church led the blessing. They also read the names of all of the soldiers who were buried in the cemetery; that little cemetery also had the remains of a soldier from the Revolutionary War.

When the services were over, we all walked back to the firehouse for refreshments: punch, cookies, water, hot dogs, and ice cream. People stayed around and talked for a long time, catching up with each other's lives or just shooting the breeze.

If this wasn't a celebration of small town America, I don't know what is. It wasn't like any other Memorial Day parade I'd ever attended. For one, I actually found room to sit on the curb where I could see the whole parade. Secondly, I neither had to march nor play an instrument in the hot sun. Finally, I didn't get bored during the services honoring the soldiers; the priest and the mayor kept things rolling along, and quite interesting. Plus, the lovely walk to the cemetery, which passed by some lovely, old houses decorated for the holiday weekend, didn't hurt things a bit. And I enjoyed watching those residents of the old houses wave to us from their windows.

And I'm gonna make sure I attend that parade come Sunday.

No comments: