I live near St. Michaels, MD, an affluent resort town that just happens to have the most wonderful coffee kiosk and the best iced coffee ever. Today, when I drove to get one, I noticed a severe slow-down of traffic in front of the estate? farm? estate, I suppose, of a man known for his complete embrace of all holidays.
I was astounded.
Cars were parked by the side of the road, and my glimpse as I passed by showed the most amazing Memorial Day tribute. Apparently, the man collects WWII memorabilia and even has a fighter plane on his estate.
I was in tears on the drive all the way home (my coffee was free, by the way, because I was a veteran, but that's not why I had tears streaming down my cheeks). I decided to come back with my camera and my eight-year old son and teach him what Memorial Day is all about.
On the drive there, I explained in age-appropriate terms how war wasn't what anyone ever wanted, but it was a part of life, part of what freed people from tyranny. He already knew from school lessons a bit about the Revolutionary and Civil wars, the Underground Railroad and such, but I also explained that even now, wars were going on across the world, and they were complicated. His father and I both were in the military, but his daddy really was put in harm's way many times -- Bosnia, Iraq, and places unknown to me, flying in airplanes as a linguist for most of it.
We talked about respect for those who lost loved ones, regardless of our feelings about war in general, and walked up on the tableau.
This man had put a LOT of work into this.
He had put up so many white crosses, and then mannequins in the uniforms from Revolutionary, Civil War, World War I, World War II, and current day. The empty spot, I'm imagining, is from the Korean War, or the Forgotten War. Rick's father fought in that war, and absolutely refuses to speak of it. (Click for a larger photo).
There were the wife and child with flowers for the grave of a fallen husband and father.
More soldiers to the side, from World War II, I'm imagining from the uniforms.
Uniforms my husband has worn. When I think of the dangers he put himself through in his twenty-six years.... and then when I realize I lived in South Korea, next to a land where the ruler was a complete crackpot, all the chemical warfare drills we all went through start to mean something more than an annoyance.
More of the broad view, showing the scope of work this man did for Memorial Day.
And, along with the flag, a symbol of freedom.
Flags festooned the long lengths of white fence. Zack took in all of this with a quite, contemplative look on his face. Not a look of fear, but a look of , dare I hope, appreciation. Appreciation for what this man had done, appreciation for the dozens of cars that stopped to take pictures, appreciation for what I was quietly telling him. Appreciation for his parents, who did their part, and understanding, in his eight-year old capacity, that things don't always make sense in the world, but people believe in things, and we should respect them.
Respect is something I've been trying to teach Zack daily. Respect for others, for things, for quiet time, for waiting turns. Sometimes object lessons come in unusual ways -- such as driving down the road to get a coffee on Memorial Day.