Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day minutiae and reverence

Somehow every year Memorial Day sneaks up on us. We know vaguely that there's a day off somewhere at the beginning of summer but inevitably, we find ourselves with no plans and no thoughts for how to make the most of the long weekend. This year, things were a bit different. We saw some houses in Wellesley, made an offer on one, accepted delivery of our cars, hung out with our friends Scott and Nikki who were in town for a race and found out our offer was meagerly countered by the current owners.

Saturday morning we stopped at Sam's would-be elementary school to try out the playground. Bob was thrilled to finally find a hoop the right height for him to dunk. The little dude was more interested in shooting hoops with his Papa than climbing the playground equipment. We even met a perfectly yuppy family who also came to spend some time at the playground. All in all, it was a great Saturday morning. Note to Grandmothers: No knees were skinned in the course of our playtime.

Even though we spent the weekend mostly absorbed in our own affairs, we did spend a few moments yesterday thinking of the servicemen and women who've lost their lives to protect our nation. Now that we live in the Land of Liberal, I'm certain many of our neighbors will not share my political ideals. Even so, I hope that I'm in good company recognizing that men and women in uniform make sacrifices so we can continue to live our comfortable, protected lives. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the current war and its genesis should have absolutely no bearing on the respect due our veterans. They don't choose war, they choose to trust in their leader and assume the role they've been given. That takes bravery I'll never have. And as a mother, that's bravery I selfishly hope my son never has. (Ok, maybe that's not exactly true but perhaps he can show his devotion by serving stateside.)

Patriotism was an underlying current in my upbringing. As a second generation American, I never learned Italian (nor did my mother) because once the family came to America, assimilation happened relatively quickly. The importance of family and food persist but all else from the old country is virtually gone. My Grandmother gained her citizenship, learned English and raised her children American. In some ways, I think making the choice to move to this country makes her even more loyal to it. And although I can't remember those words ever being spoken, they were implied in subtle ways.

One day I'll explain to Sam why we hang a flag on Memorial Day, why we take it down when it rains and more importantly, that our freedom is something precious for which we should be grateful. But explanations can only help instill so much. I hope too that he'll learn by way of different subtleties-- the tear in my eye when I hear of a soldier lost or my hand over my heart whenever the national anthem plays-- and become a man of strong character who recognizes that thanking those who sacrifice for us isn't just an act of patriotism, it's an act of humanity.
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