There are quite a number of people who probably think Memorial Day is the day to celebrate the beginning of summer vacation with swimming pools finally opening for the hot summer months along with food and music festivals like the Taste of Cincinnati lining Fifth Street this coming weekend. Edwards Restaurant, where I was their pastry chef in the 80’s, participated in the very first Taste of Cincinnati. I remembered what an unbelievable challenge it was to make the hundreds of servings of our signature chocolate marquis torte. It wasn’t as big an affair as it is today. Most of the restaurants aren’t even around anymore. But it certainly has become a Cincinnati tradition.
Many Memorial Days I have hung an American flag with only 48 stars that had draped my grandfather’s casket on the front of my house. I am not sure why I was given this to care for, but its hand sewn stars and stripes have held up really well since his death in 1958. I was only six then. I never asked why he had been given that flag when I was younger, but now I know. He never spoke of being in the war, but he was in WWI, and I really don’t even know the details.
My Mom’s husband Ed Knight was in the Navy. I know he could still fit in his dress uniform because he wore it when he was asked to attend numerous funerals throughout the city for various fallen soldiers. I know he was proud to honor their sacrifices.
Many men who have been a part of the wars that our country have fought in, do not speak much about their experiences and so our thoughts of their challenging and difficult times are assembled in a holiday called Memorial Day where we remember what they have given us or given up.
I had a cousin, Paul Davis, who died in the Viet Nam War. I have seen his name etched in the Memorial in Washington DC. There was a young man in our neighborhood that would come to visit my sister in High School. He had a crush on her. He died in Viet Nam too. I don’t think either one had turned twenty.
This Memorial day I am going to think about these men. The older I get, the more I realize why it’s a good idea to have a day to put all of that pain in one place to honor their service and all of our losses.