Letter From New York 05 22 15 Musing on Memorial Day…

It is a little after noon on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. I am headed north on the train for the long weekend, planning a restful time at the Cottage. There is a little work that needs to be done around the Cottage and a few things I need to work on but I think I am going to be spending my time this weekend largely on the deck, reading a book.

Right now, I am devouring Erik Larsen’s “Thunderstruck.” I am sure I’ll finish it this weekend after having stayed up later than I planned last night after getting wrapped up in the story of Marconi and a murderer.

As I head north, the Hudson River is choppy and bronze colored. White caps tip the waves as the sun shines down brightly; in the distance a few clouds scud across the horizon. The hills have turned green and we sit on the verge of summer. Against such idyllic circumstances it is not hard to slip away from the world and to focus on the nearby, the familiar and the comfortable. I’m sure many of us will be doing that this weekend.

Memorial Day was established to remember those who died in our armed forces in service to their country. There are over a million men and women who have. It grew out of the devastation of the Civil War in which over 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers had died. Women went out to cemeteries and laid flowers on the graves of those who died. Originating in the south, the custom moved north during the years following the war, becoming a formal holiday in the 20th Century.

As a child, we went on Memorial Day to put flowers on the graves of the grandparents I had never known and on the grave of the brother I would have had if he had not died two days after birth. It felt somber and real and was considered a duty.

Not so much today. We have a more nonchalant attitude today to Memorial Day for the most part; it marks the unofficial beginning of summer with Labor Day marking the unofficial end. It was only in 1971 that it became the last Monday in May. I think I should remember that but I don’t.

I’m not sure that all that many go out to mark the graves of relatives with flowers these days. The VFW and other such organizations see that soldiers’ graves are marked with small flags. It is a tradition in the cemetery on the road to the Cottage. There will be parades.parties, barbecues and picnics, especially parades. It’s a big day for parades.

Hudson may have one but its big parade day is Flag Day. No one has ever explained it to me but that’s the day the City of Hudson pulls out all the parade stops.

On Memorial Day, the flag will be at half staff until noon and then raised to its full height to represent that after honoring the dead we will continue to protect the liberty for which they gave their lives.

Meanwhile almost 5% more Americans will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend than last year, availing themselves of the cheaper gas prices than last year’s though higher than earlier this year. Most people will be driving to their destinations.

Gradually I am getting toward my destination, looking forward to being at the Cottage. The sky is marginally cloudier, the market is down marginally, more boats are on the river and I am looking forward to the long holiday weekend but will do my best on Monday to remember those who served and died and also to think about those currently serving, men and women who are probably not enjoying the pleasant vistas I have.

Have a good Memorial Day Weekend.

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