In contrast to those who call themselves “survivors” for having endured the trauma of sad feelings, Memorial Day honors those who did not survive. They couldn’t be fixed by Play-Doh or a comfort gerbil. They gave their lives. it’s been my tradition to offer a Memorial Day post over the years, and there’s no reason to break the tradition today.
In a town known as Oyster Bay, Long Island, they hold a parade on Memorial Day. It’s old school, marching bands and little league teams. And a few old cars with vets and prom queens waving at the crowd while the local men’s club hands out little American flags and lollipops to the kids. It’s quite charming if there’s still room in your dark heart for American tradition.
Every year, I drove the 1964 Healey BJ8 to the parade with my son in the navigator’s seat. As we watched the parade, he saw some classic cars and had an epiphany. “Dad, we should be in the parade!” I grabbed his arm and said “let’s go.”
The Healey was parked on a side street off the parade route, very close to the grassy knoll where we were sitting. The parade took a curious route, doubling back on itself from a street across from the high school to its starting point. As it happened, the streets were the same.
We jumped into the Healey and revved it up. As the old cars were approaching, I pulled the Healey into a gap between a pipe and drum corps and the lead car. Nobody said anything. Nobody minded. I don’t think anybody even noticed. And suddenly, we were in the parade.
My son did the wave as we drove slowly through the adoring crowd.
There’s nothing wrong with having fun on Memorial Day, a barbecue, some beer perhaps, and a ride in a parade that reminds us that there were people who never returned from war. Whether it’s fair to say they died so we could do any of these things is arguable, but keeping Memorial Day distinct and appreciating America traditions, allows us to pause and remember those who aren’t “survivors.”