The pool, set beneath tall pines, was freezing. But it was Memorial Day, and we were going in. I was about 16 and my friend a year older. He was going in to show off, and I was going in to prove that anything he could do, I could do better ... or at least with equal lack of foresight. He reminded me of a marble statue when his winter-pale chest and shoulders froze in ropey, muscular form as the shock of the water stopped his breath and instantly perfected his posture.
That's the kind of memory I have from Memorial Days past. As a musician, I spent most of my teens and 20s racketing around small cities and villages, from parade to parade, ceremony to ceremony, stopping off for ice cream at a dairy bar between gigs or a picnic (and early season swim) at a bandmate's home after a morning parade.
Memorial Day was the start of the summer parade season and, for a time, the marker of summer freedom. From that point through mid-September, weekends and evenings often involved a lakeshore, a downtown stroll, my favorite friends/crushes (after all, I was a girl spending all my time surrounded by kind, bright, funny, handsome guys), and great music blasting out the windows of pickup trucks and sports cars.
I know the words to Amazing Grace. I recite In Flanders Fields with fervor. I think about the service members who have sacrificed their lives throughout my country's history. Given the part of the country I live in, I think about those who gave their lives on both sides of two wars, each thinking that their side held the moral (if not literal) high ground.
These days, though, I'm more likely to see the holiday fireworks on TV, from DC following the National Memorial Day Concert, than I am to go see the display near my house. Not because it's my desire, but because I am generally unmoored from a social crew that embarks on holiday adventures. I'm picky about parades, too, having taken part in so many of them myself and having little patience left for eight towns' worth of emergency vehicles in lieu of music and pageantry. Besides, going to community activities alone always seems a little weird.
This year, I'm happy to have company for the weekend and a graduate's celebration to attend. The freezing pool, though? Nope. Don't miss that.