Saturday, May 23, 2009


Memorial Day weekend is here again. It hardly seems possible! In East Hampton, it signals the start of the summer season, but these days, the tourists and second home owners come earlier and stay later. No longer is it a three-month season in the sea-side resort town.

When I think back on the holiday weekend from earlier years, I do, indeed, find many of them memorable. When I was a youngster, early in the morning on Memorial Day, I would hear the 21 gun salutes at the near-by cemetary. I donned my Girl Scout uniform and headed for the flagpole near the library and Town Pond. I'd join my troop for the long, often warm, trek to the windmill on the north end of the Village. It was something I looked forward to and was proud to do.

In later years, as a parent, I watched my young ones march the same route, wearing their various assortment of uniforms...Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub and Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, EHHS marching band, Little League. Whatever the uniform, Mom was there to deliver the kids and to stand proudly, beaming at the children. We always stood, afterward, at Hook Mill for the ceremonies honoring our men lost in wars. We listened to our local public officials, and we applauded the students who were presented with scholarship awards. It was all a part of the day, as was the annual cook-out our family attended at one or another home.

Two Memorial Day events stand out in my mind. One was when I was a young mother, expecting my second child. The phone rang in our kitchen that morning, and my own mother's voice said, " I have bad news." (I recognized that phrase as my mother's coming announcement that someone had passed away.) She continued to say that my Grandmother had died that morning.

Years later, another family died on Memorial Day. In fact, he died in a way that would probably have been chosen by him, had he had a choice. Uncle Bob was a veteran of the US Navy and an active member of the Navy Reserves. Having reached the rank of Chief Petty Officer, his uniform bore an arm-full of stripes and his chest was decorated with many colorful ribbons. He'd served in five wars. He loved his uniform and was proud to wear it in patriotic service for his country. That May morning, Uncle Bob carefully put on each item of clothing, being sure to line up his shirt buttons with his belt buckle, as is the military way. He 'reported for duty' for the last time, to the flagpole. He began marching in step with the drumbeat, accompanied by other men and women of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He marched almost half the way to the Mill, when the flag he carried began to droop toward the ground. Someone stepped up to take the flag as Uncle Bob collapsed to the ground. He'd served his country well, and finished his earthly work wearing his Navy uniform.

A Memorial Day indeed.

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