Memorial Day. For me, Memorial Day has always been more than barbecues and a day at the beach. My grandfather died in World War II, so Memorial Day is a day of ceremony and reflection. In the small town where I grew up, the tradition was for the children to place potted geraniums on the graves with American flags on them. I did that in the two cemeteries in the center of town when I was a Girl Scout. At that time, the flags marked those who had been soldiers from the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War. Both of my grandfathers were buried in one of the cemeteries and I always made sure to place a geranium on one grandfather's grave and to go with my cousin to the other grandfather's tombstone.
When I got to high school, I was in band, so Memorial Day was a day of parades. Nine towns went to my high school, so we usually marched in 2 or 3 parades. Always we'd march down the Main Street of the town and stop in the town cemeteries where the color guard would salute with their guns and 2 trumpet players would play Taps. In one town, a flowered wreath was thrown into the river to honor those lost at sea.
Today, I'm in the local community band where we play a Memorial Day service at a local retirement village every year. Many of the residents are World War II veterans. As I watch them during the concert, it makes me think about how many lives are changed when a family member goes to war. I wonder about my own small family - what my grandfather was like; how my grandmother's, great uncle's, and father's lives might have been different; if I would have had aunts and uncles and cousins - because my grandfather didn't come back from war.