There is something so fine about Memorial Day

I was a lucky kid; I grew up in “Small Town America” during the 1950s. And although my Colorado hometown wasn’t “small” by most standards (roughly 100,000 people), it felt that way because we were encapsulated within our close-knit neighborhoods.
Congenial neighbors were in abundance back in the day. Dads worked while moms stayed home to care for the kids. The absence of the traditional nuclear family was rare although my best buddy, Freddy, was an exception. His grandparents raised him.
We didn’t see a lot of Mr. and Mrs. K., Freddy’s grandparents, in those days. Freddy, being quite a handful as a rowdy little boy, took most of their energy, and they tended to keep a low profile. Of course we thought his grandparents were ancient, although that was coming from our adolescent perspective.
The house where I grew up was a cozy, early-1900s Craftsman-style bungalow; Freddy lived three houses down. I grew up in the same house my mother lived in as a child. My parents bought it from my grandparents just before my little brother came along.
Interestingly, I remember more detail about the streets and sidewalks of our old neighborhood than I do about the inside of my friends’  homes, probably because our mothers shooed us outside to play, no matter the weather. In winter we had the snow, but summer was best since we found endless adventures then.
Our favorite pursuit was to have a parade, which usually consisted of just Freddy and me on our tricycles. Sometimes we dressed up if we were feeling especially festive. And if we happened upon a stray cat or dog, we’d plop the hapless creature in a basket or wagon and off we’d go.
One afternoon we were lining up for our parade when Freddy’s grandfather stepped off the porch where he’d been watching us from the swing. He carried a couple of miniature U.S. flags made of cloth, their wooden staffs painted gold.
After inquiring about my family, he asked Freddy and me if we knew what day it was. I answered that it was Memorial Day; I knew this because we had just gotten back from the cemetery, and my parents were home preparing our family picnic and homemade ice cream – all Memorial Day traditions.
Mr. K. went on to talk about the veterans and folks who wear the uniform, but I’m afraid I tuned out a little bit because, after all, we had a parade to put on. Probably noticing our fidgety state, Mr. K. then handed us each a flag. He suggested we use them to decorate our tricycles that day.
“Well, kids,” he told us. “You have fun. And remember; there’s something so fine about Memorial Day.”
Well. That was OK with Freddy and me. My dad, a veteran himself, pronounced our flags a nice touch and fastened them to our trikes with the red vinyl tape he used for mounting color photo slides between small squares of glass. Our flags now affixed to our handlebars with bright red tape, we were off, those little flags flying.
For years I kept my Memorial Day flag in a drawer with other mementos. Freddy kept his, too. Sometimes when I looked outside my window I’d see him riding his tricycle in his own one-man parade, crossing the intersection to our school grounds across the street where he’d ride like the wind, his flag waving brightly.
My best buddy Freddy drowned a few years ago in Mexico. At least that’s what I heard. Sadly, I lost touch with him decades ago. But there isn’t a Memorial Day that goes by when I don’t remember Freddy and his soft-spoken grandpa.
So whether it’s about standing on the threshold of summer or being a kid on a tricycle or remembering those who have served our country, well, there really is something so fine about Memorial Day because we’re blessed to live in a country like this. Land of the free. Home of the brave.

Leave your comments