Thursday was the last day of school until August for many Great Bend children. (Some will start summer school on June 3.)
During the school year, I spend half an hour every afternoon directing traffic at 9th and Heizer as children left Riley Elementary School. It’s heartwarming to watch the smallest children run to meet their parents or grandparents with open arms, ready for a hug. Other times they wear paper hats or carry cardboard castles made for a class project.
As Memorial Day approaches, those of us who are older can remember our teachers as clearly as family members. Diana Gabaldon writes, “You forget the life you had before, after awhile. Things you cherish and hold dear are like pearls on a string. Cut the knot and they scatter across the floor, rolling into dark corners never to be found again.”
For my upcoming family reunion, I wrote about things I remember about trips to my grandparents’ farm in Anderson County. My aunts and uncles and cousins gathered for a meal prepared on a wood-burning stove. In the afternoon, some of us would take cane fishing poles down to the pond and see if any fish would pull our red and white bobbers under the water. No fish were actually caught. If we went to church, we might get to hear Jean Carr whistle “The Old Rugged Cross.”
On Memorial Day weekend, there was the Indianapolis 500, which we listened to on the radio, always rooting for my dad’s favorite, A.J. Foyt, and my mom’s favorite, underdog Lloyd Ruby. In 1977, I rooted for my own favorite, Janet Guthrie, the first female driver to qualify for the race (A.J. Foyt won).
Also on Memorial Day weekend, there were trips to the cemetery. While Memorial Day began as a response to the Civil War, commemorating some 620,000 soldiers who died between both sides, it’s still a time to remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the country. But beyond its patriotic purpose, it’s a time to remember all loved ones who have passed before us.
Sean Carroll, writing a blog for Discover magazine, said, “remembering the past is like imagining the future.” Carroll was writing about studies on how the human brain works, but perhaps the mental snapshots we construct of perfect days in the past do point to a future we can work to attain. Those happy children running toward a hug today represent a past and a future to cherish.
So, while Memorial Day is a solemn event, the entire weekend is about all we hold dear. The grills are fired up. The water park opens. If we’re lucky, the sun is shining.
Enjoy the day.