How do I feel about Memorial Day?
It depends on what picture you want me to paint for you. Should I paint you a picture of the July 4 WASP Independence Day-style party in which some Western looking guy complete in stars, stripes, and camouflage regales some war hero who sacrificed his or her life for my freedom to not care.
Or should I celebrate family members I know who fought in the armed services that died… who although their sacrifices were great no one speaks of enough? Because the fact is: I often get Memorial and Veteran’s Day confused!
When plans are orchestrated, someone is always sharing a melodramatic story of some bygone era that I’d like to forget about. Maybe, I’m too concerned about the mental health crisis, the “opioid” crisis, the “black people dying for stupid reasons” crisis, and the “being college educated and never seeming to have enough money” crisis.
This holiday is going to be marked with a family gathering complete with those I haven’t seen and don’t care to see because facts state that none (or mostly none) of these visitors who are converging have actually engaged in my significant day to day life.
I’m perched on a hardwood like (bad for my back) chair typing this. I should probably celebrate the memorial of the first day I could sit in this chair without my tailbone and lower back aching. Now, let me visit Google, Bing and Yahoo to get some data about what emotions memory should elicit. It is not like I have a written account of anything people actually faced.
Isn’t this why writers exist? So that those that died while serving could be adequately accounted for? But I’m in a generation where it would seem that people in their 20s and 30s don’t value their histories, let alone understand how said “histories” contribute to repeating them in contemporary life.
I want to know how people have affection for a holiday when the media landscape conflates its meaning so often, to so many.
For many African-American people I know, Memorial Day is the perfect excuse to ghost those individuals and groups known to get on their “last nerves.” My experience dictates that Memorial Day is the time we seek our family out because it’s the start of summer, the month of graduation gatherings, the start of fall planning season, and the dawn of beach combing time.
Did I forget about spring cleaning? Is it that time too? I know that each summer before my fall session at Southern University, I read and wrote like I could never run out of inspiration. I had not discovered Goodreads yet. So I would compile lists of books to read and process those texts as an act of cauterizing my anxiety and depression about how complex and daunting that HBCU was.
I had gotten so good at doing this that I didn’t see how my emotions changed from one time to the next. I didn’t spend Memorial Day having that nostalgic feeling. I actually spent it in re-evaluation, appreciating my growth. With my growth, comes a feeling of persistent suffering that no family gathering can fix overnight.
If I can remember anything, I’ll remember how I’ve changed and how I’ll never go backward.