Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Traditions

It was a somber but wonderful Memorial Day.

I don't remember the first few years of my life, but as far as I know I've attended every parade since I was born. My father was a veteran, of course, and though he was not active in the local VFW in the years I was growing up, we knew that it was an important day to him.

When I was in the 6th grade he took all of us to visit the parents of his best friend from the war years who was killed in action in Europe. He had been, for the first time, to visit the places he fought, and while overseas he visited his friend's grave and took a photo for them. When he contacted them to tell them about the photo he wanted to send, they invited him to come for a weekend instead. His friend's father was the chaplain at West Point, and that's where we went. I remember sitting in the living room of their home on campus (attached to the beautiful chapel) and staring at the large portrait of their son which hung over the mantel. He was standing tall in his uniform, forever young and handsome. It could have easily been my father's face, but fortunately for me, it wasn't.

It dawned wet and windy this year. We went to Main Beach at 9 for the flyover wreath laying, but visibility was too low for flying, so the wreath was taken out by surfboard and set into the water beyond the breakers. It seemed fitting for this community.

It was pouring at 10:00 so I took my big umbrella and went to gather with other officials at the reviewing stand. By the time the parade kicked off the rain had slowed to a drizzle and we were able to stand and watch without hoods or open umbrellas, walking down to the green then and standing for the short ceremony.

Things have not changed much on Memorial Day here in East Hampton. The kids no longer ride their bikes in the parade, and the veterans from WWII are old and few now. But others have taken their place. The community still comes to remember the ones who didn't return. Like my father's friend. I still remember his name.

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