Smells like Summer

Memorial Day.

Grandma Rosie Smith called it Decoration day. If I’m correct, it was a day set aside to decorate the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers, always commemorated on May 30th. I believe it was President Johnson who changed it and declared Memorial Day a 3 day weekend and federal holiday… (forgive me if I’m wrong)

My family always enjoyed the day. We ALWAYS visited the cemeteries (yes, plural) and made certain family graves were cleaned, manicured and decorated with flowers. Perhaps this tradition is more common in the south and for those who are living close to where loved ones are buried.

It saddens me to think it’s a tradition that will someday come to an end.

Memorial Day for me was just a glorious time. I loved the warm weather, the excitement of getting out of school for the summer, the family visits to New Salem and Myrtle cemeteries, the stories, the laughter and even the tears.

I loved that Aunt Lucille and Uncle Pat always came from Tulsa to visit on this holiday. There were always fresh strawberries…. Mother made certain there was food for an army. Lunches of cold cuts from the store, tubs of homemade pimento cheese and huge dinners for my family and friends as we celebrated.

If Mike happened to be in town the Spring River canoe races were a must. Mike and Strawberry England were always sure to win or get mighty close, ha. What a small town celebration….so much fun!

When the holiday became a “long weekend” by celebrating on Monday, we sort of lost the one day celebration feel and it became a vacation weekend opportunity. And guess what? That’s perfectly fine with me. Everyone deserves a vacation!

But this past weekend I have noticed a distinct difference in focus….. at least online.

Perhaps it’s just cynical me, but it seems there is a patriotic competition taking place. Have you ever seen so many patriotic posts? So many flags helping sell everything from cars to insurance to ice cream?

Hey, whatever works I guess.

I’ve always considered myself as patriotic as the next person. I feel obliged (why is that?) to preface any comment about patriotism with “Daddy fought in WWII and dear family members (Uncles, nephews, cousins) also proudly served”….as if this pedigree gives my words some sort of relevance, which of course it doesn’t.

As it happens, a few years ago I was the MC at our school’s academic award ceremony. A job I loved doing. Each year I chose a student to sing the National Anthem before the ceremony began. As with all choral directors, we worry and are protective about our solo performers. On this day the student I had chosen did a fabulous job, singing acapella in front of a huge audience, staying in the same key (ha) and without adding a million unnecessary flourishes (as many are tempted to do). Proud moment for her and for me, her teacher.

Until….

That evening when a grandparent attendee confronted me at a restaurant asking why I didn’t put my hand over my heart and was I trying to make a “statement”….. Are you kidding me? For a moment I felt like Captain Von Trapp when he’s forced to hang the flag…

Had I not been so taken aback by the grandparent question I might have stood up for myself instead of profusely apologizing and assuring her she was mistaken…..

Really? Can somebody tell me where in the BIBLE it says thou shalt put thy hand over thine heart during the national anthem.

C’mon now.

I’ve heard so many bad renditions of the national anthem I really want to put my fingers in my ears most of the time.

Trust me, it has nothing to do with my patriotism. Just my ears.

For years I have taught choral students whose religion prohibits them from saying the pledge or participating in “holiday” music. And guess what? They sat out the events and nobody threw a fit about it and we moved on. Can we just do that now?

Please don’t take me the wrong way. I love my country. A lot. I marvel at the REAL sacrifices others have made to protect our DEMOCRACY. They gave their lives so I could have the freedom to write my silly little blog. I get it. I really do, I promise.

And while I love my country……….. I also abhor those who trampled and rioted and trashed the people’s house on Jan. 6th. Many of whom thought it a great idea to use the flag to break windows and hurt police officers. Actions that seem a little more dangerous to me than my failing to put my hand over my heart…

Bottom line?

Patriotism isn’t a competition and isn’t a time to “one up” each other….and it’s surely not something that should be forced, mandated or legislated. It’s a free country. At least for now.

Hitler certainly found a way to force the German people to pledge allegiance to a flag and to him….but I’m hoping that’s not a blueprint for what serves as American patriotism.

Sometimes I think the country just needs to take a huge cleansing breath and

calm the heck down.

Wouldn’t it be a great idea to just rest for a while and not assume the worst in each other. To not be continually angry with those who think differently than you? Those who choose to live their lives differently? Those who look different, Those who worship differently? I’ll bet they love America too! Isn’t that what freedom and being an American really means?

And by the way…….to embrace the realization that God loves us all EQUALLY? All of us….All of us. American or not. Isn’t that statement amazing and HUMBLING! Shouldn’t it cause us to love more and judge less?

Here’s an idea. Just for today….

Grab a cup of coffee, a glass of sweet tea or what other beverage makes you happy, and thank God for the rain, the sun, the blooms (not the mosquitoes, I have to pray harder about them) and head to the patio. All of this pairs well with your music of choice (vintage George Jones is a suggestion) and quit trying to fix everybody and everything.

And yes, I’m preaching to myself.

Smells like summer, doesn’t it?

Published by swcall58

I'm a wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother....a retired choral director living with stage 4 lung cancer. My faith sustains me and my writing is therapy. Day by Day.

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