Memorial Day open thread

Today is an open thread.

How are you commemorating Memorial Day?  Someone commented last week about going out to enjoy local tourist attractions.  I feel as if there are so many nearby attractions I have yet to visit.  I’ve been to West Point but have never toured their cemetery.

Memorial Day: A tour of the West Point cemetery

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44 thoughts on “Memorial Day open thread

  1. We have a dreary rainy day with highs projected to stay in the 50s. It’s a nice day for movies or other indoor stuff.

  2. During one of the baseball games this weekend (the players are all wearing uniforms with caps and numbers in olive drab), the breathless sideline reporter prattled on about how Memorial Day is no longer about the dead, but about honoring the service of our brave men and women, etc.

    That is big change from my youth. The point of Memorial Day was to remember those who died in combat – to acknowledge and mourn the cost of war. It was originally Decoration Day, a national holiday on which the grave of Union Civil War veterans were decorated. Over time it expanded to include all veterans who died while in the armed forces, including Confederate veterans, and then further to all dead veterans whether or not they died in conflict, and then even more broadly became a day for people to visit the graves of anyone.

    Veteran’s Day underwent a similar change. In my mother’s childhood and young adulthood, it was Armistice Day, the day the War to end all Wars ended. A celebration of peace and the cessation of conflict. Then after WWII, it was broadened to honor all military veterans, since “War” was not in fact ended.

    I am very grateful for the service of all who have gone into danger, including that of my husband who served in Vietnam. I regret that we no longer have a system in which all are subject to military service, and in which much of the population relies on other regions and ethnic groups to carry the load. And so far we don’t have parades of weapons before grandstands of our leaders on national holidays. But it was really jarring to my ears to hear that sports reporter miss the entire point of Memorial Day. People died – sometimes in defense of hearth and home, sometimes in defense of ideals, but often as the saying – War is young men dying and old men talking.

  3. We have had a really lovely weekend. School is out for us, and the entire family has spent the weekend exhaling. May just about did us in. Saturday and Sunday were social – pool with friends one day, cookout with other friends last night, now today I’m trying to catch up on all the loose ends that got ignored while we were in May(hem). The gorgeous weather and texts from friends are beckoning me to the pool, but I know I’ll feel better if I get rid of the piles that have accumulated, waiting patiently for someone to deal with them.

    DH and oldest DS are on a father-son trip, having a blast. Youngest DS is here, but he’s one that disappears for hours in his own world, so it really is like having an entire day to myself in the house. Heaven.

  4. To Meme’s point – I will say I always have a bit of a heavy heart on Memorial day (even as I enjoy a lovely day). Georgia is very heavy on military bases and soldiers are a part of many communities. My heart breaks for the spouses and parents who have lost loved ones, and I have been reflecting on that this morning.

  5. Sigh. Exam Week starts on Tuesday. I hate Exam Week. Poor Junior must think he is on Paris Island or something. Things are not fun around here.

    That said, our Church rolls out all stops on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The service yesterday was very moving and that is a service I hope we never miss. My remembrances of Memorial Day and it’s meaning square with Meme’s. It is a day to honor, and reflect upon the soldiers who gave their lives for our country. Around this home, it is also a day to consider the effects of war and the devastation it wreaks.

  6. Growing up, Memorial Day was the day Dad dragged us kids and Grandma (actually it was probably Grandma doing the dragging, just not the driving) to Golden Gate National Cemetery to put flowers on Grandpa’s grave. Since neither Dad nor Grandma could stand Grandpa, it wasn’t a particularly tearful outing. After awhile I think Dad put his foot down about it since I don’t recall any cemetery visits after the ’60s.

  7. The article at the link I just posted goes back a bit further than Meme’s history.

  8. Thank you SM for posting that. I was not aware of that bit of history.

    Decoration Day as we know it became established in the U S as a reaction to white activity in the occupied Confederacy. In 1866 Southern (white) women’s clubs organized a day of remembrance with laying of flowers at Confederate graves. (It is possible that this organized effort, which originated in South Carolina, was at least in part a reaction to the events in Charleston in 1965, so the article’s description of those events as the first Memorial Day is supportable). A few towns laid flowers on the (many) Union soldiers’ graves as well. The general in charge of the occupation was not sympathetic at first to the idea of a formal service or laying flowers, but he decided in 1868 to decree that flowers should be laid at Union graves nationwide – on a later date in May to accommodate northern weather and differentiate from the “rebel” ceremony. The story is he acquiesced to the pleas of his wife. In the 1880s it became a national holiday so that federal workers could go to the graves on what was by then a solemn national day of mourning.

  9. we did our fun stuff yeserday. We went into Manhattan, and walked first from Union Square west along 14th street, trying to explain to the kids how 14th street used to look (cheesy discount stores where you could buy things like Jesus clocks or $3 pans or pull carts for groceries, cheap clothing stories with hawkers outside, grey market electonics) and how it looks now (artisinal food stores, chain clothing like Urban Outfitters). We had lunch at one of those fancy food courts that have popped up everywhere – the kind where they put sea salt on the ice cream and bacon on everything – and then we walked the High Line. After that we went to MOMA and saw the very fantastic Rauschenberg retrospective. My kids then ended up in the gift shop, where the older two immersed themselves in specialist design books and the youngest ran around begging for overpriced Japanese kitsch. She ended up with a kitten purse.

  10. Moosh, that sounds like a wonderful day! I wish I was with you. And yes, 14th Street was exactly as you described as I well remember. Bernie Goetz territory.

  11. We’re having a nice weekend with my dad here. DD graduated 8th grade in Saturday. Yesterday we drove up to Pike’s Peak. Then we did a totebaggy thing and my dad and I had a conference call with my brother and sister to discuss end of life issues. We realized a couple of months ago that if anything happens to him, we’d have no clue where to start. Today we went to a street fair for a while.

  12. Garage cleaning is the big news here. DS is now happy to lift things that I find very heavy. That was harder for me to accept than expected.

    Next on the agenda–eating at the lobby lounge of the Hyatt and slipping into their hot tub, to ease my functional cyst.

    A little bit of long distance elder care here too–trying to figure out a meal delivery service (a la Blue Apron or Fresh Direct) for my parents. Main issues are availability in their area and ability to customize diets. Risley, who is “the Lady”?

  13. “cheap clothing stories with hawkers outside”

    Haha! I used to work in that area and would buy cheap clothes from those 14th Street stores for my kids and sometimes for me. Some of that cheap clothing lasted a long time!

    I’m enjoying my new Kindle Paperwhite. Since I’ve only used the Kindle app and not an actual Kindle in the last several years, I’ve not enjoyed the built-in dictionary and Wikipedia until now. Plus the vocabulary builder looks promising. But the illustrations I’ve tried to enlarge still don’t enlarge, so that’s a bummer.

  14. The weather is wonderful here. Mid eighties. The pool we just joined this year is being redone so it hasn’t opened this weekend like we were expecting it to. School is still in session.
    It was a bit of an odds and ends weekend. Dance competition Saturday. Memorial Day service at church yesterday. Today took my parents to the big Asian market where we spent a good bit of time selecting fish, meat and produce. It is always interesting to wade through the unfamiliar products. Saw The Diary of the Wimpy Kid this weekend. DS loved the books, we all liked the movie.

  15. CoC, I bought tons of stuff on 14th street. My mother bought a Sacred Heart of Jesus clock there, which hung in her kitchen for years. But the look and feel was definitely low rent, not gentrified.

  16. It is cold and rainy here. :) On Saturday we had a bunch of my singing friends over, which went off very well (and the 24-yo told me I throw a “great party”, which I count as high praise). Today we went to the woods and the kids drove us CRAZY by fighting almost the whole time and not listening, but no one fell in the beaver pond, which is a good thing (it probably has giardia). Now I am trying to get some work done while the kids watch some awful show with DH.

  17. CoC, to expand images on the Paperwhite, “To expand, you press a second or two on a picture. Then tap the magnifying glass that appears. The you can swipe to pan, and use a two-finger zoom to expand further.”

  18. Today is a recovery day after waking up early on Friday and Saturday to spend half the day each day, then about 3 hours yesterday, decorating for DS’ Baccalaureate, then the actual service last night.

    On Friday night we were also out late at the home of one of DS’ best friends, whose parents hosted both their kid’s closest friends as well as their parents. We spent a lot of time with those parents in MS and early in HS, but not so much the last couple of years, so it was nice to have a chance to spend time with them again.

    The prep time did give me a chance to visit with some parents I hadn’t seen in a while and get to know some other parents of DS’ friends, in addition to the time before and after the ceremony.

    I teared up a bit when DS led a quartet performing his arrangement to start the ceremony. I will miss him when he leaves.

  19. DD#1 has one exam and a paper due tomorrow. But, counselor wants all the teacher college letter recommendation letters requested by the end of this week. Getting DD to do the “request sheet” (a brag form) has been like pulling teeth. Communicating to her that it is in your best interest to tell people what you want said about you is just not going over well.

    DD#2 has several exams Tues-Thurs. The hard part is even if you do not have an exam, you go sit in the room and (1) have to be quiet while others take the exam or (2) when no one in the class is taking the exam “study” for your other ones. One class where no one is taking the exam, the teacher is showing a movie and told them all to bring a snack.

    This Thursday at 1 pm cannot come soon enough.

  20. It makes me a bit crazy when people say Happy Memorial Day! I have learned to just not say anything.

  21. Thank you, RMS! You’ve made my (reading) life complete! Of course, I could have googled that but that issue was already discussed. :D

    I remember those 14th Street stores were also good for cheap giveaways to use for children’s parties.

  22. I just saw a headline that made me think of Finn:

    Composting kids at Dobbs Ferry school

  23. SM – The Lady is Cooksmarts, which you can find on the Googles or FB or Twitter or InstaG. It’s a meal planning service, though, not food delivery.

    We had a lovely weekend. Among other things, I finished a book called The New Farm, writtten by a neighbor and friend of my sister. It’s a memoir about a couple who move their family from Toronto to a farm and start an organic farm business. They have been wildly successful but the book starts from the beginning of their journey, when they were barely making ends meet. I found it fascinating. Those of you who think organic is stupid (most of this board as I recall) may think the book is, too. I didn’t find it preachy – it’s mostly the blow by blow of how they took an idea and executed it and all the things that went wrong along the way – but I’m part of his choir, so am less inclined to be sensitive to the preaching of that issue. If nothing else, it’s a great lesson in escaping the rat race, if you like that kind of lesson.

  24. I have always been bothered by the inherent disconnect in Memorial Day — “A bunch of people died for us, but let’s forget all about that unpleasantness and go to the beach, it’s the beginning of summer!” Given that my grandfather died in WWII, I felt like I wanted to memorialize it, but never quite knew how (plus I feel stupid/weird, because no one else in my immediate family seems to have the same reaction).

    Well, yesterday I finally did something that felt “right”: I did Murph. Every year, crossfit does this workout that is named after Michael Murphy — if you read the book/saw the movie “Lone Survivor,” he was the one who (a) argued to let the shepherds go, and (b) exposed himself in an open field to make the satellite phone call that brought rescue, and was shot and killed in the process. His favorite workout was something he called “Body Armor” — run a mile, then do 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, then run another mile. Except of course he did it with a 35-lb weight vest, because he was a total badass. :-)

    I am not a total badass. I scaled the bejeebers out of it — had to do the rowing machine because I can’t run anymore, had to do jumping pullups and box pushups because I can’t do the real thing. But I made it through, and in well under my hour target. It was hard as hell, and I totally bonked as soon as I finished, but it felt right to do something hard and think of my grandfather and Murph and all the others who gave their lives so I could spend the rest of the day in my recliner and drinking wine and ordering crap from Amazon.

  25. Yeah, my yoga instructor, who is very young, said several times, “It’s an extra Sunday!!” Well, kinda, honey.

  26. LfB – DH and I did Murph, too, outside. He does it every Memorial Day.

    We don’t do enough to otherwise mark the occasion, and this is also true for November 11. I need to change that.

  27. There are Memorial Day programs in all of the small towns here. The one we went to yesterday was very nice. A local veteran spoke about other local veterans’ service and lives, some of whom died while serving. We sang songs and there were a couple of videos.

  28. I saw a Veteran’s truck in the parking lot this morning. There was a sticker that said “Jesus Christ died for your soul, the American soldier died for your Freedom”.

    Risley – I’ll check out the book, I find the story interesting. I thought of you the other day, as I was thinking of healthier ways of eating and diets to prevent certain conditions.

  29. “Communicating to her that it is in your best interest to tell people what you want said about you is just not going over well.”

    Austin mom,

    Have her take a look at these letters, which is what she may get if she isn’t proactive. http://blog.prepscholar.com/examples-of-bad-letters-of-recommendation-from-teachers

    “I’m writing to recommend Jamie to your undergraduate program. As a student in my 11th grade English class, he performed well above average. Jamie is a hard worker and is well liked by his peers and teachers. I’ve been impressed with him as a student.

    Jamie has a strength for discussing books, and he participated well in my class. In his group projects, Jamie listened to his peers and was respectful of their input. Along with his three classmates, he earned an A on a group presentation about the various types of conflict in Hamlet. Jamie is a conscientious student and rarely missed an assignment. With his strong effort and respectful attitude, Jamie leads by example.

    Jamie took a variety of courses in high school and was especially interested in psychology and history. He balanced his time well, participating in both the Interact Club, and, in his sophomore and junior year, the track team. No one ever has a bad word to say about Jamie. He’s an all around good kid.

    I’m confident that Jamie will be an asset to whatever college he attends next year. He’s a good student, kind friend, and was a pleasure to have in class. He has my recommendation. Please feel free to contact me for any further information at unimpressedteacher@gmail.com.

    Here are some good ones:
    http://blog.prepscholar.com/4-amazing-recommendation-letter-samples

  30. Scarlett – I guess I question the value of these letters for the vast majority, if not all students.
    I think you mentioned that there is very little time to go through student applications, so why add more requirements or nice to haves ?

  31. We don’t really commemorate either Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day (and our kids just think of July 4th as grandma’s birthday and fireworks). I don’t even get Veterans’ Day off any more. :-P

  32. I think in this specific case, where AustinMom’s child wants to go out of region to engineering school, where the school’s informal placement/ranking network is likely weak, her recommendations will need to carry some of the weight . It is the essay that I think needs no special emphasis, so that should not be a source of anxiety. (If the high school is a nationally known prep or Catholic powerhouse, the advising reach extends to HSS or many good SLACs, but for regional engineering schools that doesn’t work unless there is an individual at the school with connection to one of them).

  33. We had a wonderful weekend. The weather was sunny and in the 70’s (sunny is not something you take for granted here). We went hiking – and DS actually seemed to enjoy it. It was so nice to spend the day together – something that does not happen too often given 17 year old DD and her many activities (and this year, just the massive amount of time she spent studying). I find being in the woods and mountains so restorative. The hike we went on this weekend had spectacular views at the top.

    Kids here don’t get out of school until June 26 – so today is back to school and work for all of us.

  34. Louise, I agree with Meme. But because many teacher letters are unhelpful generic summaries of interchangeable kids, the truly enthusiastic ones stand out. The easier you can make this job for the teacher, the more likely you are to get one of those letters. Most kids just can’t appreciate this point and the more humble among them will naturally resist the brag sheet approach.

  35. I have a hard time celebrating/commemorating Memorial Day. My dad was a combat veteran, and I believe he suffered from untreated PTSD until the day he died.

    My son was confirmed this weekend, which was nice. My mom was at the after party, and DH, DD1, elder brother, and I have differing ideas on how much she is slipping. EB and I are concerned, DH and DD1 think she was better than usual. Sigh. I think we are headed down the same road as many others have followed here.

    Like most Memorial Day weekends, DH is still working 14 hours days, and it is going to be one of those hard years, but happens.
    .
    We have one more week of school, and a multitude of graduation parties. With careful planning, we can make most. So, not all is grim.

  36. I have to write recommendation letters, and I have to admit, many of mine look like the one written by unimpressed teacher. Why? Because honestly that is all you can say about the person. I get tons of requests from students who have taken a couple of courses from me, gotten an A or a B, who said nothing all semester and who I barely remember. Sure, I could turn down the student, but he or she was probably like that in all classes, and SOMEONE has to write the letter. And anyway, what is wrong with being quiet and boring and getting an A?

    I would say that I have had maybe 8 students who I could write gushing letters about – the students who worked with me on grants, the kid from Nepal who wrote virtually all the code for a large group software engineering project, the girl who has never gotten anything other than 100 on any assignment, project or test, and who comes to chat with me about research areas.

  37. School goes till June 16 here but Memorial Day is when I give up on 9 PM bedtime. It’s light from 5 AM till almost 9:30 PM and the kids manage to get up for the bus.

    We went to eastern Washington for the long weekend. I-84 was backed up for a couple hours yesterday. Baby WCE needed a change and we would all rather be active than sitting so we stopped at Multnomah Falls with a few hundred other people. My sandal strap broke this weekend (and I took only one pair of shoes) so I hiked up broken-sandaled with the boys and with Baby WCE mostly in the emergency front pack (no stroller along) and Mr WCE watching the dog. Twin 1 skinned both knees and an elbow on the way down. Fortunately I’m a Mom and have a stash of Band-Aids in my purse.

    The school talks about Veteran’s Day but not Memorial Day. We should probably discuss it more. One of the primary lessons about veterans my sons came home with is that not all veterans are dead.

  38. Our town has a parade for veterans on Memorial Day. The veterans ride or walk, and many of the local volunteers walk in the parade too. There is usually a guest speaker and I always find the personal stories very moving. It rained here yesterday, but they still held many of the activities at the local fire house.

    The girl scouts in our town prepare cards and decorated bags with cookies for the veterans that live in our school district on Veteran’s Day. It is always a school holiday so all of the local troops meet in a church on the morning of Veteran’s Day. They have a list with the names and addresses of every veteran and their families that they receive from the local VFW. The girls deliver cards and some cookies to each veteran after they finish with the decorating. The youngest girls decorate, and the older girls organize everything into bags. Each troop is assigned a route in town, and they make the deliveries that same day. I was always off for this holiday since it is a bank holiday, and I used to go with our troop leaders. I think the kids really learn from some of these neighbors when some of them share their stories.

  39. On Saturday, after we’d finished with what we needed to do to prepare for the Baccalaureate, DW and I and some of the other parents and kids stuck around and used the extra flowers to make a bunch of lei. One of the parents took them to Punchbowl, aka the National Cemetery of the Pacific, where the Boy Scouts would distribute them to the veterans and their spouses there.

    That took me back to small kid days, when every year we’d go around picking flowers to make as many lei as we could, which were collected in school for distribution at local veterans’ cemeteries, and part of that exercise was a reminder of why Memorial Day is a holiday. In HS, our band always played at one of those cemeteries, and my senior year I got to play Taps.

  40. Thanks Risley!

    I have a ton of relatives who were in the military in the first half of the 20th Century–think I’ve mentioned the Congressional recognition of my mom’s family before.
    My preference is to celebrate workers and valor with the rest of the world. The US couldn’t stand the thought of celebrating workers with workers’movements/socialists, so got ornery and put Labor Day in the fall, instead of May 1 like everybody else. That meant there was a slot for some kind of long weekend (not that it started out that way, but when congress passed the current set-up, they were tacitly agreeing with parties/hangovers and travel, rather than a morning parade and afternoon visit to the cemetery), so we split off from the 11/11 remembrances. I don’t recall how or when Germany decided to blow off 11/11, but that date is the start of Karnival/Mardi Grad season there. Anyway, the global recognitions mean more to me than the ones set up t thumb noses at workers’ movements. “Solidarity forever” does make much sense if you sing it alone, half a year off from when everyone else celebrates.

    Finn, thanks for mentioning that poignant moment. Sounds to me like a happy wrap-up of a good childhood. You’re lucky if your kid has the kind of childhood you wish for them.

  41. The last day of school here was Friday. Eighth period exams in high school were 7:30-9:30, and then kids were dismissed for the year. MS and grade schools got out two hrs early. In MS, kids had 20-min classes during exam week, except for the couple of periods when they had exams. DS reported it was a total waste, with kids spending most of the time on their phones. In HS they go home or to the gym if they don’t have an exam, which makes more sense to me. Many of his classes have county-wide exams, which were taken a couple weeks before “exam week”. In pre-AP bio, they did their exam, then a week of foetal pig dissection, a day or two of “egg drop” and other fun, and the year dribbled to a close. I was glad that the teacher mentioned she thinks he’ll go far, but of course have no confidence in that myself; she is certainly aware of what’s happening with him and may have just thought it was a nice thing to say.

  42. SM – sending you a big hug. There is always the hope of a good school year for a child. It is tough when it doesn’t go that way.

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