Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 5.139: Why Memorial Day is for me

First let me say that as a citizen of the United Kingdom and a resident of the United States I am grateful for all those who have fought in wars on behalf of those countries and their allies.

Most British people (of my generation at least) have an issue with patriotism - it doesn't come naturally to us like it does to most Americans. We don't feel comfortable saying how wonderful our country is, or its armed forces or its history. So an event like Memorial Day comes as little of a shock. Our version - Remembrance Day - falls in November and tends to be marked by a solemn laying of wreaths on war memorials while wearing overcoats and a minute or two of silence. Memorial Day is not really the same.

I live in the suburbs and I love our community - it's a bit spaced out and affluent to be called tight-knit, but it is friendly and diverse and well-intentioned. Memorial Day is one of those times when we get closer to our neighbours. The streets line with lawn chairs and Radio Flyer wagons and blankets and - most importantly - people and we cheer on our neighbours and friends and applaud the veterans and the fire departments. Today, we chatted with an acquaintance of Exile #2's about kitchen renovations and kid's sports and working mothers.

Funnily enough, our first Memorial Day parade was exactly five years ago and we were the same group of seven - Exile #2's parents were making their first visit, the girls were not quite five and three and E5N1 was only about seven weeks old.

Here's a picture of the group on that day:

And this was us today:

I may not be able to fully embrace the patriotism and I had to hold my tongue when a political candidate came around to introduce himself before the parade started, but I can applaud with the best for the volunteer firefighters that are willing to protect my home and family and for my neighbours who take the time to march to play in a band or show their allegiance to their sports team or scout troup or even just shine up a classic car.

This evening, we got a taste of another community using the holiday as an excuse to get together, when we had a wander in Washington Park.  The area around the playground was packed (well packed for Washington Park).  The drum circle and the cooking smells were just a small taste of someone else's Memorial Day community celebration.

We didn't stay long - the smell of food reminded us that we needed to be getting back for our own dinner.


  1. you described the english patriotism issue well there. i have exactly the same issue to english 'nationalistic' pride.

    It was strange coming to New Zealand where people are very patriotic, or more accurately 'proud' of their country. But in a really positive way which celebrates their culture, amazing geography, and open attitudes. It's done in a really welcoming and non-exclusive way. which also make me proudto be living here and often brings a tear to my eye (in a manly way of course).

  2. Interesting to hear from a very different expat perspective as ever! I suspect you're right to call it an 'English' condition by the way.


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