Tuesday, May 31, 2011

15 minutes Late.

Happy Memorial Day everyone.

As of my post last week, I can’t say I’ve met too many new folks and had deep, meaningful and life altering conversations with them. But, I have met new people, and I’ve spoken with them about common interests and common dislikes. I’ve stepped out of my box and became a participant in a Memorial Day Parade. (Which, I normally would have not just NOT been in but I would have tried to avoid attending said parade in the first place.)

The new Museum opened and over 600 people showed up on opening day. The subsequent days brought another 1,500 people on Saturday and 500 on Friday. To say we are a hit is an understatement. The museum made all the local news stations, papers and radio announcements. Photographers, videographers, interviewers and all sorts of other “ers” were on hand to talk with anyone with anything to say “On the record.” (Me? Soon as I see a camera or a talking head, I head towards my office and turn out the light and pretend I’m not there. This tactic actually works.) Now, don’t read that I avoid people, ok, I do, but in this case, I actually avoid cameras and interviews and it is only because I’ve been interviewed before and when I watch the footage later, I always feel like I sound like an idiot.

I did manage to graciously accept a compliment about my work from Millie Lancaster and how my vision of the trains at the museum matched her late husband June’s vision. (Extremely high praise and I was struck speechless and even teared up a bit when Millie hugged me and whispered that fact in my ear.) I watched as some folks stood in awe and wonder at what we have accomplished over the past eighteen months. I listened to all the compliments and waited for the complaints to follow. Those complaints never came, but, that is to say they won’t come in the future.

On to more serious things:

Memorial Day, a day in which I spent remembering my fellow shipmates I served with and trying to remember and honor the men and women that came before me and that are serving now. As I sat in my buddies truck traveling down High street in 103 degree temperature at 5 miles an hour waving to people of all ages. Some waved back, some stared blankly into space wishing it were cooler, some smiled blankly at us and wondered who we were and what happened to the marching band kids who had passed out to heat exhaustion. Looking at the faces of the citizens of Portsmouth and being a part of our countries longest running Memorial Day Parade made me wonder how many of these people actually understood the sacrifices the men and women of our military have made for America throughout history. These rhetorical questions were answered when I realized most of the onlookers were missing one small but vital accessory on Memorial Day.

Not a flag, not a button, not a hat… but just the simple patriotic colors of the day. Red, white and blue. It was not until we were two blocks from the grandstand that I saw the first flag waving in the hands of a small child. We had traveled over a mile, the heat was oppressive and our moods were quickly waning from joy to annoyance. The driver and I had made more than our share of snide, rude and snarky comments about the lack of patriotism were seeing, most of those comments were made with AC/DC blaring on his speakers which only fueled our cynicism. But seeing that little kid waving the American flag as if her life and the lives of our nations finest depended on how franticly she waved it.

I smiled, I laughed and I waved to her. I made a comment to the driver and he almost wrecked the truck he was laughing so hard. I don’t believe for a second that kid knew what the day was for but to me she had a gleam in her eye told me she knew it wasn’t about store sales, getting drunk and making some pathetic attempt at a sport you haven’t even thought about for at least a year. She seemed to think it was about watching a parade and seeing all the really cool people in uniforms marching, playing music and driving small cars with large men in them. You know, America. A minor victory for my psyche and hope for our country.

And this concludes my Memorial Day tale. Hope you all had a good one.

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