Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Memorial Day

I don't think I've ever made a puzzle with a Memorial Day theme. That's not to say I haven't tried.

Sure, I've searched for inspirational quotations or historical themes. But they all seem to fall short and the puzzles are never made. My father was an Army man who served during wartime, as did my grandfathers. Our family relocated to the States because of war. For me, perhaps the subject is just too close to the heart. There are no words.

Growing up in New Jersey, I played clarinet in the high school marching band. We always marched in the Memorial Day Parade. The play list? John Philip Sousa, all the way. The parade kicked off at City Hall, then snaked through the business district; then the residential area (right past our house, with my parents waving and snapping photos from the porch); and then, finally, up a steep hill to the cemetery.

After a brief ceremony, the Band Director dismissed us. We ran down the hill, disrobing along the way--literally ripping off the itchy-hot band jackets, plumed hats and uniform overlays. It was time to hit the Jersey Shore . . . Asbury Park, Long Beach Island, Wildwood, Spring Lake. Surf's up!

Looking back at that Memorial Day tradition--those four Monday morning parades I marched in, one for each year of high school--I'm informed through the lens of contemporary wars. The importance of ritual: the cemetery visits, the prayers, the little flags, the flowers. I understand now.

Three years ago on Memorial Day, this photo by John Moore ran on the Page One of the The New York Times. I will never forget the feelings evoked by this image--so sad, exquisite and private.

The caption reads:  "Mary McHugh visited the grave of her fiancĂ©, Sgt. James J. Regan, who was killed in Iraq in February."  There are no words.

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