Friday, May 23, 2014

The Memorial Day Conundrum

Happy Memorial Day!

Time for Bubba next door to jump into his go-kart and go trawling through our suburban streets like a testosterone-driven kid. Woo-hah! Bust out the paddle-boats on the lake, strap on those bikini's and burn your face into a blood-orange crimson! Yeah! Pump those fists in the air to the throbbing bass of antiquated '80's arena rock! Let that mullet-flag fly! Go! It's friggin' Memorial Day! Yee-haw!

Except, therein lies my problem.

Memorial Day is a US holiday that started after the Civil War, commemorating the memory of those fallen in battle. The holiday grew into a day to remember all of the brave people who have died in military service, sacrificing their lives during time of war.

From there it blossomed (no doubt in no small part to the efforts of greeting card companies and advertisers) into a day to honor all of our lost, beloved ones. A very heartfelt, important sentiment.

But. When people wish me a "Happy Memorial Day," I cringe. It's a sad event to be taken seriously. Not a time to bust out swimsuits, sunburns and six-packs. Flailing a torn-off bikini-top in the air seems like a strange salute to the dead (although, I'd like to think they're enjoying it wherever they are).

So the next time my neighbor hollers at me over the fence, "Have a happy Memorial Day," I'm going to respond with, "I hope you have a very sombre holiday."


  1. I lost a great uncle in World War II, a 2nd cousin in Viet Nam, and my Dad was in the Navy during the Korean Conflict. I'm not wild about wild men who use the holiday as an excuse to get drunk. But I also think the quiet reflection thing can weigh a bit too heavily on my shoulders.

  2. I'm on board with you, Michael. My family tends to dwell on the morose aspect of the holiday, staring at my father's grave-site for what seems like an eternity. Others here in Kansas treat the holiday as Spring Break Part II! There's gotta' be a happy medium. I prefer to remember the good things about those who have left us, sharing warm memories, laughing about times past.

  3. Excellent point, Stuart. For us, it's a time to replant the flowers at loved ones' grave sites, and then get together with friends and family for a relaxing meal. The kids play outside, and everyone looks forward to summer. We reminisce about funny Grandpa stories (he was a man with a very good sense of humor), but we don't get morose. I like to think my family has found the happy medium. So if you're ever in the Rochester area on Memorial Day, bring your wife and daughter on by! I'll tell you a funny Grandpa Howard anecdote and offer you a white hot.

  4. Thought provoking post, Stuart. Here's wishing you a somber day of reflection. For us, Memorial Day is when we plant the garden because the soil is finally warm enough to plant. Instead of whooping it up, we'll be digging down. : )