Cindy Bargell: Memorial Day memories
Memorial Day is upon us – the smell of the grill, the expectation of summer and, of course, a healthy dose of remembrance.
A special prayer of thanks goes out to the families of all the individuals who have given their lives, in every generation, in service to our country – an unfathomable sacrifice. First observed as Decoration Day in 1866, it’s amazing that, still today, men and women around the globe knowingly put themselves in harm’s way for all of us. They all should indeed be remembered.
The day also provides fertile ground to reflect, and for many of us Memorial Day conjures memories of parents, relatives and mentors who have influenced our lives. Not long ago, my brother, sister and I took an evening just to reminisce about our upbringing. In all, it was pretty typical middle class America stuff. While talking about Mom and Dad, I noted that my brother – 10 years my senior – had memories that were, shall we say, a bit inconsistent with mine. In fact, I am pretty sure that he actually was abducted by aliens and raised with an entirely different family – so different were his recollections of growing up. It’s funny, but I had not before considered the fact my parents were growing up at the exact same time we were. One thing we all remembered was my mom’s pat answer when we had annoyed her just enough to set her off. Her response of “Because I said SO!” to our endless questions still rings in our collective brains.
And, it’s remarkable to me how small memories of our families can impact the course of our lives. My Granddad, his father and assorted uncles all were immigrants from Scotland. Many of them settled in Southern Illinois and became underground coal miners – from all accounts a grueling and dangerous way to make a living. If the family lore is true, however, they were a hearty bunch, a group who worked hard so that their children could live the American dream. Much to my Dad’s chagrin, Grandpa forbid Dad from working in the mines. Grandpa went so far as to threaten to have fired, or to personally beat up (or both), any foreman from any neighboring mine who agreed to hire Dad. And he meant it. So Dad went on to college instead, as did his brother and sister, the first in the family to receive college degrees. The memories of mining left their mark in the family however – years ago – when a freshman at CU was asked to declare her major. In my first year of business school with nary a clue about the difference between finance and marketing, I selected instead Mineral Land Management as my major, mostly because I felt a connection to those long-ago miners. I bet when we do reflect on it, the impact of our ancestors is evident not only in career choices, but in how each of us approach life. That should jolt us all into the present.
When our kids were toddlers, I used to joke with friends that I hoped the girls’ memories of my less than stellar moments would only be unearthed during lengthy therapy sessions, many years hence. Now that the girls are 9 and 10 , I recognize that we daily are creating the memories of their formative years. This gives me pause. It means I can, and arguably should, take action so that when they take a walk down memory lane in, say 2040 or 2050, I would enjoy being the fly on the wall. So, for this Memorial Day I have begun formulating a list of those things I want to imprint (just like little ducks), of things remembered about dear old Mom after she has, well, moved into upper management. My hope is they’ll remember Mom was quick to laugh at herself, but saw no humor in laughter at the expense of others. And (this being aspirational and all) that they will recall Mom smiling at them first thing each morning, letting them know she loved them. Oh yes, they should fondly remember that Mom really loved Dad, and actually acted like it. Thinking of Memorial Day, they also should remember that Mom respected her country, and instilled in them an understanding of what people have sacrificed to keep us free. There’s lots more, and in the end (literally), I hope the good outweigh the bad – but more than anything, I hope they remember that I loved them to the very core of their being, a love as unshakable in 2050 as it was in 2010. And of course, they also can recall Mom’s wisdom that, when no other answer is available, “because I said so” works just fine.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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