I am getting nothing done on time these days, nor am I finding time to write at all. I suppose it is only fitting that my reflections on Memorial Day are a bit late.
I am no sentimental patriot. If you know me, you will know that I love other cultures and that my experiences abroad have given me a critical eye when looking at my own country. But regardless of what you or I think about war or peace or the current engagements of our military, I hope we can all agree that Memorial Day is a good thing. It is good to remember those who have died to secure our freedom, though we so often abuse it. It is good to teach our children that they have been given a gift that was hard won. It is good to be with family and friends and enjoy the freedoms that we have.
So this past Monday, that is what we did. At the end of a beautiful weekend in my East Tennessee mountains, I joined my grandma, great aunts and uncle, my father's brothers, and my own brother and sister-in-law and adorable niece for a picnic like only my dad's clan can put on. I had called Grandma on my way to Tennessee to suggest that we get together for Memorial Day. The plans started as a light picnic lunch at her house with the kids running around in the yard, but they morphed into the best picnic ever.
First the picnic spot was changed. Why picnic in the yard when we could go to a recreation area in the woods with a creek? Then the menu evolved. Why have a light lunch or pick up subs when Grandma and Aunt Mary could cook up a storm the day before? And finally the guest list. Why only have a few people when we could invite whoever in the family was free that day?
And there we were, enjoying the freedom to disagree about politics, meander around a national forest picnic area, and say a prayer of thanksgiving over our meal. Remembering my grandpa and other relatives who served this country through our laughter and conversation. Eating hot dogs with Grandma's world-famous chili, potato salad and baked beans to die for, and, of course, Grandma's chocolate cake. Washing it all down with a glass of sweet tea that we don't have to pay the British taxes to drink. In general, being good old Americans.
That's when my boys decided to fully embrace the atmosphere of freedom and celebration. They had been playing by the ice-cold creek, throwing in rocks and sticks and running into the water long enough to get scared by the cold. Suddenly, Calvin came running down the path toward me, shirt off and pants and underwear halfway down his knees:
"Mommy, Mommy! Uncle M said I could go nudey in the creek!" (For the record, Uncle M only said he could take off his shorts.)
Fine. I'm a barefoot mountain girl, so I have no problem with my son playing naked in the mountain creek. A few minutes later I looked over to see Hobbes stripping off his shirt and diaper to join his brother. Two boys, completely free, splashing in an ice cold mountain creek. Let freedom ring.
Now if only Hobbes would learn that there are some rules to follow, like how far away from the water we need to be before squatting down to be totally free...