Monday, May 30, 2005

You Get a Second Chance!

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Are you stuck in traffic driving home from your 3-day holiday, your funds depleted and your guilt throbbing as you hear the news radio talking about honoring fallen heroes? Congratulations! You're another victim of corporate greed.

Where did the idea come from to make certain holidays into 3-day weekends?

A. Some Congressman woke up one morning and said, "Oh well, Memorial Day has been on May 31 since the Civil War, but heck, let's make it a Monday and give everyone a 3-day holiday."

B. Some major corporations who give big donations to the Congressman (i.e. the hotel industry, the tourism industry, and Big Oil) called the Congressman and said, "You know, if you make Memorial Day on a Monday, people will be able to take a nice summer-send-off holiday and stimulate the economy by driving to a resort and spending money."

If you guessed "B," move on to Round Two.

I'm old enough to remember when May 31 was deep-sixed, and so are members of The Greatest Generation, who've never quite gotten over having the holiday (look at that word closely, Chippie, it's diminutive of holy day) usurped for the cheap thrills to be had at the Jersey Shore. A lot of towns still observe Memorial Day on May 31. Everyone should.

However, since I pay taxes and have to earn the money to pay them, I went to my very own Memorial Day observance this morning, Memorial Day Observed. Not the posh ceremony in my local burg. My own private one at a neglected cemetery for Civil War Dead (African American).

Apparently the national cemeteries wouldn't take African American Civil War casualties, because there's a cemetery near my house where there are about 150 black heroes buried, and the town couldn't even have been that big at that time. The town, which from this point on I'll call "Whistle Stop," was -- and is -- an African American community. They must have put out the word that they'd take Civil War soldiers of color. Because there are a good many there, all in rows with weathered stones -- not that picture-perfect look you get at Arlington, or anything like that.

One of the Civil War veterans buried in Whistle Stop is a winner of a Congressional Medal of Honor. The town paid to have a new stone made for him, and they don't have a whole lot of money to throw around. (They also paid to restore a home used in the Underground Railroad. It's a museum now.)

When I got wind of this fallen hero lying in Whistle Stop, I told my daughters, The Heir and The Spare: "From now on, every Memorial Day (Observed), we're going to take a wreath and put it on that soldier's stone. He can stand in for our ancestors so far away in the mountains, and for the two who never made it back from Andersonville Prison."

Well, to make a long story short, I think the African American members of the Whistle Stop VFW, and their Ladies' Auxiliary, must have been somewhat surprised when they arrived to do their own ceremony at the hero's grave this morning and found a way weird druid with a magic wand chanting over some (if I might toot my own horn) tastefully arranged red, white, and blue silk flowers in a sensible, re-usable vase.

However, the kindly members of the Whistle Stop VFW, and Ladies Auxiliary, recovered quickly and said some very kind things about my interest in their cemetery. I promised them next year I'd wait for them to start and attend their ceremony. They said they'd be glad to have me. Nice people. Charming little town.

But wait! There's good news for you sunburnt, impoverished tourists out there. If you join up with the druids and pay your dues, you can celebrate Memorial Day on our holy day, which is never thrown into a 3-day weekend even if it falls on a Wednesday.

Our Memorial Day is October 31. And we honor not only the heroes of wars, but also our departed kin, who often return on that evening to visit us and shoot the breeze and see how the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren are doing.

You get a second chance! Heave that guilt out the window, take a deep breath of SUV exhaust from the behemouth in front of you on the turnpike, and plan ahead. Because your ancestors deserve some respect, don't they?
ANNE, THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS

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