When was the last time you had the good hard laugh? Like, you laugh so hard your belly aches or there are tears in your eyes. My dad and I would make faces at each other at the dinner table. The game was to make the other laugh without getting caught. That meant my mother nor brother could see the face. There would be the moment when my mom would whip her head around, “what’s wrong, why are you laughing?” Which would bring more laughter for us and exasperation for my mother whilst brother would shake his head and continue to play with his food. Maybe my brother and my dad had the same game or a different one.
My mom had a different game. She’d stare at my brother and me. She’d respond, “just looking,” to our irritated “what are you doing?” But she wasn’t just looking, she was marveling at the traces of herself and my father in our faces. She was looking at the familial traits she’s known all her life starting to present themselves. She could see how these two little humans were starting to look like the adults they are to become.
Memorial Day is on honor of those lives lost in war. Initially, it celebrated lives lost in the civil war than went to include lives lost in World War I and subsequently, US wars. Memorial Day was first celebrated by slaves in South Carolina after the US Civil War the month following the end of the Civil War in 1865. Therein lies the significance of Memorial Day to me. After the civil war, Americans of African descent were allowed to legally marry. That meant my great grandparents could legally marry and not fear being ripped apart for lack of papers for free people of color. I have a photo of 5 generations that included my great grandfather and me. My great-grandfather was born in the 1870s, owned property and businesses in the early 1900s. It’s surreal when I think of it now, photographic documentation of my connection to the late 1800s immediately after the civil war.
This Memorial Day truly seems like an opportunity for reflection. What do we celebrate, what do we honor and what do we carry with us from the families we are born into and the families we create?