Monthly Archives: May 2014

Memorial Day

Memorial Day isn’t what it used to be. I should know. I was born on Memorial Day. The real Memorial Day. And I’ve seen the changes.

Originally the day was called Decoration Day.  So named because it was a day when the graves of the war dead would be decorated with flowers.  Later renamed Memorial Day, it was, from the beginning, a somber day reserved for remembering those military members who died while serving their country. There is some debate as to when and where the first Memorial Day occurred but it was either during or shortly after the Civil War and was intended to commemorate those who died during that conflict. It was in 1868 that May 30 was first used to commemorate the day because that date had no connection to any specific battle, and because that was the optimum date for flowers to be blooming. At least according to the White House.

And so, year after year the day was celebrated on May 30. With a growing list of those to be remembered. The Spanish American War. The war to end all wars; World War I. The Second World War. Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. More death.

When I was a child my parents would take me to the Memorial Day parade every year. Being a kid, and since it was my birthday, I thought it was all for me! The tanks rumbling down the street. The cars filled with old men in uniforms. Younger men marching. And the bands playing. Hail to the heroes. At least to the survivors. I guess we have to glorify war to entice anyone to go willingly into the carnage.

Then one year they changed the day that Memorial Day would be celebrated. Move it to the last Monday in May. Three day weekend! Whoohoo! And that’s when it changed.

Today Memorial Day is much more about cookouts and a day off from work. So many of those who gave their lives lived and died so long ago. We fought a war with Spain? When was WWI again? Afghanistan is soooo far away. Give me another burger and beer!

Being born on Memorial Day has had a profound effect on my life. More than thinking the parades were for me. I went to serve, even though I didn’t have to. Post Vietnam and the draft. Yes, I love the pomp and ceremony. Flags waving. Sharp uniforms. Bands playing. But there is a gritty side to service too. And it includes death for some.

Since 9/11 veterans have garnered a little more respect. There may even be a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony in your town. The front page of today’s local newspaper had a list of all those killed in the last one hundred years of American wars. A long list for a small community.

Maybe beinig born on Memorial Day has given me some special insight. We honor those who have died in wars fought throughout our country’s history. Died in order that today’s American can have a cookout on this day. To preserve the American way of life. But not to be forgotten. Not to have died in vain. And hopefully not to see the list grow further through the ages.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?



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Chance of Rain

Chance of rain. Thirty percent. Maybe later this afternoon or evening. It depends. How hot will it get? What direction and how hard will the wind blow? There is a high pressure here and a low over there and how they dance together makes a difference. Weather forecasting can be really inexact.

At the same time people just get glued to the TV or radio listening to the prediction of bad weather. Chance of snow sends everyone to the grocery store for bread and milk. Gonna rain? Take an umbrella. Change your behavior.

People look at me funny at work when I ride my scooter with a chance of rain. Your gonna get wet. Oooh, that’s dangerous. Riding in the rain isn’t fun. I’ve done it. I’m extra careful turning and go a little slower. I also wear a rain suit and gloves. Be prepared. That’s my motto. I keep an umbrella in my truck and a rain suit with my scooter.

I love to ride. And I won’t let a chance of rain stop me. My personal prediction of the weather is based on what I see when I look out the window. Not raining now. Light cloud cover. Go for it! I’d rather take the chance and get a little wet than miss out on the ride.

Turns out that today with a thirty percent chance of rain the sun peeked in and out of the clouds all day. And I rode without a drop of rain.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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It’s Official

Well, after months of preparation, the day has finally come. Bittersweet. My parent’s home is officially on the market. I don’t know if there is a for sale sign in the yard. I would think so. But I found the MLS listing on the Internet today.

It’s a nice write up. Very descriptive. And I’m sure it will entice a good family to buy the house. But there is nothing the realtor could say that would begin to describe or explain the real history of the house. Or what has made it our family’s home for thirty-eight years. It can’t say anything of the family gatherings at Thanksgiving or Christmas. My sister’s wedding reception on the lawn. The horses in the barn in the early years. Nor can it recreate the experience of making the house, as it was in 1975, into what it is today. Ripping out walls. Rebuilding walls. Painting. Patching. Wallpapering. All of the custom carpentry work that went into the dining room, living room, kitchen and master study. There is nothing about replacing the slate roof. Rebuilding the barn when a blizzard caved in the roof. Or my dad’s ritual with the coal burning stove in the kitchen. Every night he would put it to bed. And wake the flame in the morning.

Thirty-eight years is a long tome. A lot of things happened in that home. Good things. Memories I will always treasure. But now my folks have moved and the house is for sale. My dad says it will be nice to sell it, and move on with life. But I know he will miss it. As will my mother. As will I.

The house is one hundred forty years old. The first one hundred were unknown to us. It was a working farm. It fell into some disrepair as the farm family aged, moved on, and sold it. We bought it and revived the place. Not to a working farm but to a comfortable home. And made many memories. Our stamp will always be upon the place. But it is the people inside the house who make the home, not the building itself. Now it’s time for a new family to make their mark. I can only hope they will love it as we have.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Inside the Sale

It wasn’t quite like looking in a mirror.  Not even a two way mirror.  But it was a different perspective.  More like trading places I think.  This was another yard sale weekend, but instead of being the buyer, shrewd and sophisticated, I was the seller.  Still shrewd and sophisticated, but this time much more at the mercy of the buyer.  Yikes!

It was a vendor’s yard sale at Hodge Podge. Those of us with a venue in the mall were going to have our own yard sale. We could sell the junk, I mean treasures, from our homes, or the stuff from the shop we wanted to get rid of. I got there an hour before the start of the sale, grabbed a table and began to set up.  It wasn’t long before there were a number of shoppers poking around.

It was hard for me to understand why these buyers hadn’t purchased all of my wares within he first fifteen minutes of the sale. I like my stuff. Some I love. Why doesn’t everyone? But there were sales here and there. Some of my best customers were actually other vendors. I wonder if I’ll see these things appearing in other booths in the mall? One item has shown up already, transformed slightly to fit the new owners needs. Looks great by the way!

The sun was shining, it was warm and I felt good. I was happy talking to people about the items I had, and listening to their stories about how their mother had one of those. At one point I looked up into the sky and saw five parachutes, with their skydivers attached, floating to the ground. That is something that is both exhilarating and peaceful. Personal experience.

Most people think I did my skydiving in the military. And I let them think that if they want. But it was really done as a crazy college kid. Don’t tell my mom! First jump at dusk. After watching the instructor land on a barn roof because his chute didn’t open and he had to use the emergency silk. I fell from the plane and screamed something unrepeatable in polite company. After the initial terror the chute opened and it was pretty cool. Floating. Quiet, except for the wind.

And then the gliders flew over, behind their tow planes. Up, up, up and then cut loose, to soar like eagles on the winds. That’s something I’d like to try. That may even be closer to being a bird than riding my motorcycle. My wife was afraid it would crash, but I explained that worst case it would glide to the ground and land with a gentle thud. But not crash.

All of these things, the skydiving, the gliding, the motorcycle and yes, the yard sales and antiques give me a feeling of freedom. Doing what I love. Being with like-minded people.

In the past I’ve joined clubs of one sort or another only to find that for whatever reason I was still an outsider. But this day I felt good because I realized that I was part of a group. I knew the vendors. They knew me. I was accepted, even appreciated! They liked my stuff. It was when one shop owner said to me, “because it’s you, I’ll make you a special deal and let you have that for $$$.” I was a dealer, getting a dealer discount.  

Sometimes it takes a while to figure out where we belong. Where we fit in. And after going round and round I find myself near the place I wanted to be many years ago. Took a long detour, but I’m glad to finally be here! That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Horseneck Beach

Creativity came from my mother’s side of the family. Or so I always thought. After all it was she who is the artist. She draws and paints. And is always good with an artistic project. You should have seen some of the Halloween costumes I wore! And she worked in an art museum as a curator. Not to mention that she was a collector as well.

But when I look back on it, my dad wasn’t just a rocket scientist; he’s pretty creative too. He’s a technician. By that I mean he can look at a sculpture by Louise Nevelson or a Mark Rothko painting and understand what they are really doing. And then create his own version of it. He didn’t “invent” the idea or the form or the style, but he understands it and makes it his own. In that way he’s a creative artist.

I was reminded of all if this when I brought home three of his wood sculptures. All are assemblages of pieces of wood. Two are a la Nevelson in that one is painted white and the other black. Nice, but copies.

It is the third one that is so wonderful. He called it Horseneck Beach. We would go to Horseback Beach every summer when we went to visit my father’s family in Massachusetts. One year, 1968 I think, my dad collected a lot of bits and pieces of driftwood off of the beach. Right, Horseneck Beach. He made a rectangular frame out of some weathered wood and filled the inside with the driftwood. In the center is a big flat piece that is covered with barnacles. It looks like the beach.

This one hung in a museum at a juried show. Sometime later a guy came to the front door at our house with some kind of package and he saw the sculpture hanging on the wall in the hallway. He said he’d seen it at the museum show and seemed to be really excited to see it again. Now I have a true museum piece hanging in my breakfast room!

Maybe the creativity comes from his side. Doesn’t matter where it comes from. Glad to have it! That’s part of my history. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.comImage

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