Posted by: Hannah | 11/12/2010

into the great wide open

This morning I went to the local RC Legion hall for the Remembrance Day ceremony.  It’s been years since I attended one – I always have an excuse.  The kids are too young.  It’s too cold.  The traffic will be bad.  I’m watching the national ceremony on CBC.

I used to attend every year, when I still lived at my parents’ house.  I don’t know why I stopped, exactly.  But this morning, I went.  Alone.  Left the kids at home and just went.

It was sunny today, for the first time in a week.  The sky was brilliant blue.  There was a wind from the northwest, not too cold, but enough that hands were stuffed into pockets and little kids were in toques.  There were easily two hundred people there.  Maybe more.  The place was jammed.  Both sides of the twisty, narrow road were lined with cars.  Little kids in Brownie and Beaver uniforms marched  proudly behind the veterans, flags snapping, mittens on strings.

The ceremony was the usual order of things.  A recording of the national anthem.  Taps, played by a single trumpet, the notes clear and carrying.  Two minutes of silence.  A piper playing Flowers of the Forest.  Laying wreaths.

I was moved.  Plain and simple, I stood there under that blue sky while the tears ran down my face, thinking of them all.  My grandfather’s two brothers, marching through France, never talking about it once they came home.  The little old man who used to come to my elementary school every year, proudly wearing his old uniform, telling us stories about English fish & chips and hiding from “Jerry” in the woods one night after blowing up a bridge.

The ones who never came home.  The ones who are gone now.

I saw a mother and her two daughters, maybe five and nine.  I saw the older daughter crying, and the mother leading them away, her arm around her thin shoulders, too many burdens to bear.

I’ve never been a part of a more solemn crowd.  Everyone was quiet.  The teenagers with their hair hanging in their eyes, putting their cell phones away and just listening.  The uniformed men and women.  The elderly.  The little ones.

I thought of my father in law, a veteran of a different kind of service, of the peacetime Navy, of Cyprus and the far north, of the HMCS Kootenay disaster and the fight for benefits to his shipmates, too many with psychological damage and virulent cancers.

Next year, I will take my boys.  And maybe they won’t be able to stand still.  But I somehow don’t think anyone will mind.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

 

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Responses

  1. Beautiful. Next time, if you bring the boys, bring chocolate bribes. 🙂


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