Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Old Glories

Article first published by Laura as Old Glories on

I woke up to a heavy thunderstorm this Memorial Day. The morning news reported a few parades throughout the state had already been cancelled; festivities rerouted to school gymnasiums instead. I figured there’d be no fanfare at the end of my street this holiday.

Distant drumbeats surprised me at ten, echoes as light as the ebbing rain. Since I wasn’t expecting a parade, I wasn’t dressed for a parade. The rat-a-tat-tats grew more distinct as I quickly changed into sneakers, jeans, and a floppy hat to combat a drop or two - which, by then, mostly fell from wet trees. The rain had just about stopped. Skies were getting brighter.

I could see a cluster of parade watchers at the end of my dead end (signed “no outlet” these days). I walked passed my neighbors’ small homes, houses built before the Spanish-American War. The group nodded silent greetings when I reached the corner. One took on the role of designated candy-catcher as the high school marching band blared its fight song before us.

Men and women in uniform passed by, vets in full dress and enlistees in camouflage. A Daisy Girl Scout with an expression as bright as her sky blue tunic came up to me, handed me a silly band in the shape of an unidentifiable animal. Then a Boy Scout in khakis veered from his formation to hand me a flag. A full 10X15 inch Old Glory.

“No thank you,” I said. “I don’t need one.” I already had a flag hanging from my side porch. Drilled the holder in myself, yesterday. Recently, I have felt greater pride in being an American.

But the boy in uniform didn’t know about my flag at home. He looked at me puzzled. Don’t need one? he must have been thinking.Before he could march out another stanza I accepted the banner. I waved it toward him. He looked pleased.

The handful of us at the corner walked home together,after the parade. “You missed half of it,” one said to me.

“No, I saw half of it!” I replied. His wife laughed.

“What am I going to do with this?” He half-heartedly waved the flag he had been handed.

“I’m bringing mine to the cemetery. My father was a veteran,” I said. He looked interested, so I continued. “World War II. My father-in-law too.” My neighbor paused. I was the widow on the street. He didn’t expect me to speak of an in-law.

“My Dad was a telegraph operator in Alaska. Even broke a few codes. And Gramps flew a PBY over Panama. The plane’s engraved on his tombstone“

“Then take this, ” He handed me his banner.

“No. You keep it.I have this," I replied,lifting my flag.

“Put one on your father-in-law’s grave too. Please.”

I took his flag and saluted.“I’d be happy too.”

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