Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

My adopted hometown in New Jersey is pretty small at just over 7,000 folks. Despite the fact that it’s located a mere fifteen miles west of sophisticated, urbane New York City and many residents commute there, we celebrate Memorial Day in a wonderfully small town way.

First, we have a parade down our main street past the Victorian houses decorated with flags and red, white and blue bunting. The “floats” consist of emergency vehicles and antique cars. The marchers are the town council, the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, the local police force, Scouts of all ages, and scads and scads of children from various town organizations. The only professionals are the high school marching band of which my trumpet-playing daughter is a member.

We cheer all the marchers as they pass by and then follow the end of the parade down to the war memorials set between the school and the library. Our little town has sent many of its sons and daughters to war and the memorials pay respect to those who died in World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam. Sadly, we also have a memorial to our civilians who died in the World Trade Center attack.

The mayor makes a solemn speech. The Scouts place wreaths of remembrance on the memorials. Each fallen soldier’s name is read into the stark silence. Then the most moving part of the ceremony takes place. A single trumpet plays taps from the hill in front of the school. Another trumpet answers from the hill in front of the library. By the last note, I have tears streaming down my cheeks.

This year will be especially emotional for me because my daughter has the honor of playing the echoing trumpet. I’ll be taking lots of tissues.

After we honor those who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country, we adjourn to the recreation field for a townwide picnic. My husband cooks hot dogs, my daughter hands me her trumpet and the wool jacket of her band uniform, my son takes his soccer ball, and I revel in the sense of community that brings us all together for both tears and laughter.

How do you spend your Memorial Day?


Alfie said...

Unfortunately, my family usually spends our Memorial Day working--you know, the catching up around the house type work? Repairing a leaky sink, doing laundry, etc. Your post makes me wish my community did something special. Thanks for reminding me what Memorial Day is supposed to be.

Nancy Herkness said...

Alfie, we do a bit of "catch up around the house" stuff too but after the festivities. I hope you get lots accomplished today and then take some time to relax.

Your book cover is terrific. I can't wait to get my copy! When's the release date?

Gail Dayton said...

My little town (pop. 1800 by the end of May, since the college has closed the dorms) has a ceremony on Memorial Day, but they usually save the big blowout for July 4th. That lasts for several days.

We usually laze around on Memorial Day--we'd got back from a trip to a nephew's graduation so we could attend a wedding at home--so Monday, DH and I went to a movie. The son went to the lake to swim (no public pool--the lake's about as close as we get). That's about it...

Nancy Morse said...

Memorial Day was for tree trimming and yard cleanup, which I did by myself since my honey is out of town and won't be back until Sat. Later on, my dad took me and my mom out for ribs. There's not much going on here for Memorial Day. Come July 4th I'll be up in NY and it's a different story. There'll be a cookout during the day and illegal fireworks on every street corner at night. Last year they damn near set my hair on fire. If any of you recall hearing an unearthly sound last July 4th at around 11 PM, that was me screaming.

Nancy Herkness said...

Ooh, illegal fireworks--I've never done that. Uh-uh. Well, maybe once or twice but I didn't set anyone's hair on fire, I swear.

Around here, everyone's gone on the Fourth of July so that's our quiet holiday, so to speak. Except for the illegal fireworks, of course.