I bought my first poppy Saturday. Not my first ever….just for this season. I’ll end up with several more…. one for the car rearview mirror, my jacket zipper pull, one taped to the monitor of my work computer.
I’m a sucker for poppies, anything red,white and blue, anything remotely military. I love Memorial Day and Veterans Day, not because they’re a day off work (actually, my employer does not give us Veterans Day), but because of what they mean to me.
I grew up with a WWII veteran father. Almost all my friends had WWII veteran fathers. We used to climb the hill behind my house, dig holes, build barricades and “play” War. We’d divide up and switch from the war in the Pacific to the war in Europe, depending on mood. We were a classic cross-section of Americana – – the Italian brothers from down the street, an assortment of “mixed-up” Americans like me, my best friend who was Jewish, and my other best friend who was Austrian… she held a certain mystique within our group as her father actually served in the German army. We all got along just fine, except for when we were pretending….pretending to be our fathers I suppose.
And then I married a Viet Nam veteran. History shows clearly how America treated those veterans. I am still embarrassed by my generation…. embarrassed about the ones who did the spitting and the name calling….not the ones who served their country.
And then I had children. I encouraged their creative play…discouraged violent play…refused to buy toy guns. But just as I wobbled around in my Mom’s high heels…. they wore their Dad’s old fatigues. They made guns out of sticks and played war in the woods. I never dreamed they would do it for real.
Memorial Day has changed for me. Memorial Day has changed me.
It used to be a day to remember and reflect… on people I did not know.