The Merriam-Webster Dictionary I possess defines wax as: Noun- a yellowish substance secreted by bees or a substance used to polish. Verb- to polish or make something bright; also to grow larger (as the moon).
I had to search for the meaning I need for today’s post, finding it in the Cambridge Dictionary online: Noun- (old or formal use) to talk glowingly or with fondness. We don’t use that definition here these days; finding it written in classics or historical novels rather than in contemporary conversations. It is nevertheless one of my favorite phrases, reserved for good memories and events that marked my younger days. I could have used salad days here, but that would mean another definition and I really don’t want to bore you before I make my point.
What prompts this post is Memorial Day. When I was growing up, it meant much more than a three day weekend coinciding with the last Monday in May. It was, to us May 31, carved in stone and full of flags, parades, a day off from school most years, and the official beginning of summer. The weather really didn’t matter. As kids we pulled out shorts and t-shirts and sneakers, ignored the admonition to “take a jacket, it’s NOT July” from our parents, and celebrated the fact that school was almost over. My hometown had a Memorial Day Parade. Not as fancy or long as the Big One on July 4th, but still an excuse to walk to the main street and see veterans from wars as long ago as World War I walking or in some cases riding in convertibles, waving and smiling to us as we waved our dime-store flags and clapped in time to the music coming from a band or two. If the weather was particularly fine, we would head to the park later on that afternoon for the first day of swimming or maybe even a cook-out. But first, we visited the cemetery to put flags or flowers, sometimes both, on the graves of those members of our family who gave their lives so we could run around the tombstones, look at the names, and be admonished by family to “have some respect for Uncle Roy or Aunt Ellen” or someone equally revered as a brave and noble human being. For all our childhood antics, we knew the meaning of respect. We’d heard stories about them, about the wars through which they struggled, about how they came back as heroes. Somehow we wanted to be like them. Many of my friends grew up to follow in their footsteps in places like Cambodia or South Vietnam. It was a wakeup call for a lot of us when they were not as honored on their return. We’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. That’s another post altogether.
Today, Memorial Day is flexible. It moves as the calendar moves and not all that many children know the date 5/31 as any more than one of the last days of school, if not the first day of vacation. There are still cookouts, but not so many parades or children waving flags. People use the weekend to travel, take a trial run to the campground or hit the car sales, mall sales, and movie theaters. Or watch the Indy 500, usually run on Sunday but with a rain date for Monday so no one has to miss the thrills and spills. By the 31st, almost everyone has moved on to other things. We post reminders on Facebook, thank the troops for their service in church services and newspapers, maybe even buy a poppy from a local vet outside a supermarket. And we’re sincere. Without all those who ever fought for our side, from the Revolution to Afghanistan, we would probably be something other than what we are; a country which for all its faults and all our criticisms we hold very dear. I worry, as I often do, that today’s children will not see the true purpose of Memorial Day because it is simply just another weekend which changes from year to year and not an occasion for remembrance and honoring those who gave so much.
So please thank a veteran or soldier and give a thought to those who spend all their holidays serving this country. We owe them at least that. In the meantime, enjoy your Memorial Day however you choose to spend it and break out that swimming suit!