Growing up, Memorial Day represented a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, it was the weekend we’d pack up the station wagon to the gills and head up north to Lake Pokegama near Grand Rapids to open the cabin for the summer season.
Each fall, when we’d say good bye for the winter, my mom would wonder out loud if it will still be standing the next spring. Each spring, as we’d round the turn and hope we could make it down our drive, she’d wonder out loud again if it were still there. It was one of the most stressful moments of my childhood. See parents, when you say silly shit like this just to be melodramatic, your kids are listening. Stop doing that, it’s stressful.
“Opening weekend” meant, hauling everything out of the cabin to get let it air out. Do ALL the laundry (which meant going to town because we didn’t have hot water…or a bathroom.) Scrub every single dish and drawer to get rid of the mouse poop. Get rid of the dead mice who were suckered in by all the delicious meece poisoning that we’d leave each fall. Hope to god that when we opened the fireplace vent that bats wouldn’t fly in…they almost always did. Mow, scrub, clear, it was exhausting work that was backbreaking and sweaty. And OH, getting back to that no hot water thing. No shower. That meant baths were taken in the lake. The lake where some years, the ice had just gone off a week or two before we got up there. Those were quick baths.
The weather was almost always cold and rainy and by the end of the weekend, I was very happy to be heading back home to our little suburb. BUT, there were bright spots. Just being up there made me happy. I had my set of “cabin” books, only those I’d keep up there so it was like a treasure chest being opened of my favorite books I hadn’t seen all winter. I had my paper dolls, the cabin was the only place I could get paper dolls. We had our cabin games (I still love games. We stayed up until the weeee hours this morning playing Pit with our friends.) We had our first Patterson’s stop for comic books and inevitably our first A&W stop for a root beer float.
By Sunday afternoon, things were mostly in order and we’d get cleaned up and head to the local cemetery. This is where my mom’s parents are buried. We would mow (even though the cemetery caretakers would mow), trim the grass closest to the Markers, my mom would tell stories of her parents (her dad died when she was 11 and Grandma died when I was around 6 so I have very few memories of her.) For some reason, my memory is that those times were usually sunny and being away from the work and the chill of the cabin was a happy time. So happy that I’d do cartwheels all over the grave sites. It would drive my brother nuts. He’d yell at me to stop doing cartwheels on other people’s graves. This was a somber time. No time for fun. But hey, I gotta be me.
I thought of all of this these last few days as more and more FB posts went up about THE REASON FOR THE SEASON! IT’S NOT BBQ TIME, IT’S REMEMBRANCE TIME!!! STOP CELEBRATING ON MEMORIAL DAY!!! YOU BAD AMERICANS!!
Geezus folks, calm down. Let each American celebrate Memorial Day as they do. I know some Jewish people who exchange Christmas gifts, where’s your outrage then?
There are many of us who use the long weekend for other than it’s intended use. Okay? It’s okay. Everything will be okay. There are many of us who use the weekend to remember loved ones who may not have been in the military. Okay? It’s okay. There are many of us who may use the long weekend to get caught up on other things. Okay? It’ll all be okay. Do your thing, celebrate and remember your way. But stop meme bullying others. It’s boring.
OH! And if you ever see a little girl doing cartwheels in the cemetery? Smile. You’re supposed to be having fun when you remember loved ones. I hope.
Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.