holiday

Memorial Day

The small town I grew up in was founded in the early 1700's. Pre-Revolutionary War - better known amongst my friends as the Shot-Heard-Round-the-World-War. A name that evoked a war worthy of Orson Wells. And predecessor in our minds to World War 1 and 2. (Rock solid logic of a 6-year old.)

Each Memorial Day, small American flags were placed on the graves of the veterans from wars past. Far too many wars, some of them now long forgotten. There were cast iron rods with stars set into the ground to hold the flags. I hope they haven't all been stolen by now. There was a problem with looting gravestones back in the 1980's. Antique dealers have no honor when it comes to the dead.

I can remember skipping through the wet grass of the cemetery to look at the flags and read the names on the gravestones. It took effort to watch out for dips and hollows where unsteady ground was evidence of a collapsed casket buried deep under ground.

The gravestones had lovely penmanship chiseled into the slate with winged smiling skulls of the late 1700's hovering over the deceased. The veterans names on the old stones sounded so exotic to me as a child, like Ebeneezer and Elijah. Far more interesting than their modern equivalents of Bob and Ben.

The Common, where a small group of veterans would form a line, salute and raise a flag, still held an old cannon. Yet another childhood plaything - sometimes a horse, sometimes a rocket. On occasion, someone would dig up an old cannonball somewhere - though a relic of what war was a mystery. The Revolution never did make it to our little corner of the world.

Those days, the flags would stay in the graveyard through July 4th. Somebody - I don't know who - collected the little flags shortly after Independence Day. Some things, even a kid could figure out, no one ever stole a flag.