So, what did you do last Monday? The “pomp and circumstance” associated with this day means that it is prominently marked on most calendars. However, you may not have realized until the last minute that last Monday was Memorial Day.
This year did not generate thoughts and plans for remembering and for the fun and excitement of past Memorial Days. While I had promised not to have this coronavirus pandemic raise its ugly head in another column, here I go again. I just cannot help myself. Changes in our lifestyles because of this pandemic continue to influence my behavior and my writings. I do not know what you did this past Memorial Day; I know what I did and have concluded that there were many things we did almost every Memorial Day, back in the day that none of us did this year.
With the exception of this year, the Friday and Saturday prior to Memorial Day and quite often the week before found many of us thumbing through newspapers or circulars to identify items that we might purchase.
So early on Memorial Day morning, we headed out to malls or our favorite shopping places. Just think, this year’s newspaper advertisements were limited or non-existent; many stores, other than grocery stores, were closed. The one good thing, however, is that money is being saved with limited places to shop. Unfortunately, for many, financial resources have been negatively impacted by their inability to return to work. These are not things we experienced on previous Memorial Days when shopping was filled with fun and excitement.
You might also recall the fun of attending a parade on past Memorial Days. The Memorial Day parade that I looked forward to and enjoyed the most took place years ago in my old West Philadelphia, down the bottom neighborhood, that originated at the American Legion George T. Cornish Post in the 4800 block of Fairmount Avenue. This parade ended years ago. Yet, I still looked forward to catching a glimpse of Memorial Day parades in the township where I reside. I love parades! But, no parade this year. I would have to live off of childhood memories from back in the day.
My Memorial Days in the past always involved an invitation to a cookout in Fairmount Park and in later years spending the day at a friend’s home. Not this year! No invitations from friends to visit their homes. My day involved family members only. We simply went out on the deck to grill and then went back inside to eat.
This abbreviated cookout was not unusual. A close friend told me that he was having a cookout and told some of his family members that they could come over for something to eat. His sister took him up on his offer and he clarified his invitation. She was to pull into his driveway; stay in her automobile and call him; and, then he would gladly bring a securely wrapped plate out to her automobile. This was his version of a remote cookout.
Others had their version of a remote cookout as my family did on the Sunday before Memorial Day. Like many of you, we ordered takeout of ribs, beans and cole slaw and picked up our order curbside. We took these items home and had a delicious, moderated cookout. While the food was outstanding, it paled in comparison with the grilled chicken, burgers, hot dogs, ribs, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob, greens, punch and melon. These items were critical dishes to a typical Memorial Day cookout, back in the day.
There were other traditional things that seemingly disappeared this past Memorial Day. Perhaps it was my imagination, but there appeared to be fewer if not a total absence of flags flying in neighborhoods this past Monday. I can recall that flags were everywhere in the past: on commercial buildings, homes, mailboxes and even on antennas of automobiles to display the love that Americans had for their country.
Yes, coronavirus has undoubtedly impacted our American spirit. But I would argue that this horrendous political environment engulfing our nation has negatively impacted the way we now exhibit our feelings for our country. For many, Memorial Day’s true purpose of honoring the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, is overshadowed by the brutal political fight that we have encountered with the coronavirus pandemic. This pandemic battle may linger indefinitely.
For those of us that are descendants of African Kings and Queens, knowing the true origin of Memorial Day, initially known as Declaration Day, and its relationship to the Civil War may cause us to think about whether or not we shall relive that period again.
Something as simple as an automobile ride in the park with family members and friends did not take place this year. A casual walk through your neighborhood contained some risks, perhaps more threatening than the wars our loved ones faced. I doubt if anyone enjoyed a patriotic movie!
Sitting on the stoop, porch or deck was avoided as such private moments resurrected thoughts of how awful things are today as compared to the past. I did not know of any traditional 3 p.m. moments of silence to remember those that died during all wars. Few people visited cemeteries to honor our fallen heroes for as one person told me, such visits were too painful with deaths caused by the coronavirus pandemic being all around us.
The absence of these moments took away conversations we usually had with family members to plan for our summer vacations. This Memorial Day, we wondered if there would be summer vacations this year. Traditional concerts in the park or on the Parkway and fireworks to close out Memorial Day were non-existent.
So next year, we may be fortunate to have a vaccine that makes this coronavirus pandemic a painful memory of the past. Be hopeful and prayerful that we will be able to celebrate Memorial Day 2021 in the manner in which we once did, back in the day.