A few years ago, I ruminated on the observance that has come again today. The comments still largely apply; there remains something perverse in the tendency of the United States to commemorate events by sales and to make of what should by its own rhetoric be a somber occasion into a fetishistic paean to excess, but I will still take the opportunity to rest up a bit, being off from my regular job. I am not less perverse than others, and no few would argue that I am more so, not least because I make such comments.
There were several years in which today, and the weekend that is extended into today, saw my family move. When we left Oklahoma, we did so on Memorial Day weekend. When we moved within the Hill Country earlier, we did so on Memorial Day weekend. This time, we will not be; it’s not impossible we’ll move on Independence Day weekend, but this Memorial Day, we’re at home, more or less. Still, as I look toward making another such move, I cannot help but wonder if that is, itself, a fitting marker for the day. Is uprooting and relocating, starting a new life and necessarily leaving the other one behind, somehow mimetic in some small way of what today is supposed to mark and honor and which it commemorates only in perfunctory fashion for most, despite their full-throated jingoistic protestations? I suppose I could draft some verse that spins out a tenuous connection, holds it up to glisten in the light and seem larger than it is by the refraction, but I, being small, would struggle with such a task more than it likely deserves.
We are all of us small, in truth. Some of us are made smaller by such days as today, not because we could not measure up to those who have gone before, but because we have allowed ourselves to be made so–or, indeed, reveled in the diminution, thinking that what is gained is worth the exchange. As I look around, though, and see only some small pockets of quiet amid the tumult, and the smiles strained upon the faces of those outside them, I cannot think the price-tags accurate.