Maybe you don't remember -- it's been a while. Today, May 30th, is the real Memorial Day. We didn't use to make a long weekend out of whatever Monday was nearest it -- we just observed the day, wherever it fell in the course of the week.
It was a day primarily about cemeteries -- families would go and visit the graves of those they had lost, cut the grass around them and generally tidy up a bit, planting some new flowers or replacing a flag if one were needed -- people called it "Decoration Day". And there was a parade, in towns large enough to have one, as our town was not: we used to go to a neighboring town.
There were many veterans of the Great War alive then, and they would march down the street in their old uniforms, if they had remained trim enough to fit into them. Only thirty of them remain now -- one, 103 years old, will lay a wreath with President Bush at the Tomb of the Unknowns. He was sixteen when he enlisted. The Tomb was created after his terrible war, and they called it the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier then -- I forget why they changed the name, but it wasn't long ago that they did. And younger men from the Second World War and from Korea marched. Vietnam was still in French hands then. I'm not sure I had even heard of it.
I was little, and didn't know enough to be somber on Memorial Day. The soldiers and their rifles were exciting, and the horses, and the fire engines on parade. The cemetery was always fun, and we kids skipped in and out among the graves, hid behind the tombstones, shrieked with laughter until we were shushed by our parents. Summer was beginning, and the day was full of new life; it didn't feel like death to us at all. But then, we were kids. We didn't know anything about death yet.
And the soldiers dying now hadn't even been born. Not even imagined. I suppose there will be no end to this parade, not ever.