When I was a little girl in Iowa, growing up in an industrial town on the Mississippi River, Memorial Day meant Picnics and Parades! I didn't grow to really appreciate the significance of Memorial Day until a bit later in life, particularly when I became a member of the Armed Forces myself. My dad was a Navy man, and he likes to tell me the story of having to jump ship and go AWOL, (that's absent with out leave) so he could see me in the hospital when I was born. Being born in a Naval Hospital and having a Sailor for a father, I guess it was destiny that his daughter would join the Navy too.
During my childhood, my very patriotic dad, liked to involve himself in Navy Clubs and different Veteran Organizations. This is how we found ourselves at every parade our town ever held. He would participate in Honor Guards and Color Guards, or maybe his help would be needed to build the Float. I remember a time when I was about 9 years old, I got to walk in the parade with my mom. Our job was to walk in front of some cars carrying some "official people" and this big float, holding the banner that says, "The Dubuque Navy Club". I was prancing that day, I can tell you!
Some of my favorite parade participants, where the Shriners. They would bring a group of twelve or so, on either small mini-bikes, or little cars, and perform maneuvers every couple of blocks on the parade route. To see these full grown men on miniature motorcycles doing figure eights, intersecting with each other, circling within circles was very fun and entertaining. Our local war veterans would be showcased and honored, riding in brand new Cadillac Convertibles provided by sponsoring car dealerships. Throw in some marching bands and pretty floats, fire trucks and beauty queens. This little girl loved parades!
Now, when the parade was over, we would all go to the park for a picnic. Our family picnics usually consisted of grandma, grandpa, several aunts, uncles, cousins and anybody who just slips in our crowd unnoticed. This can happen with a big family. Especially when the older cousins started bringing outside friends to our family gatherings. You get to a certain age, when the only way you'll show up to family stuff, is if you can bring a friend.
Our family picnics were pretty simple. Everybody brought their own meat, cooler of drinks, and a dish to share. There never seemed to be a shortage of food. We always seemed to have enough grills to cooks everyones food at once. Miraculous! My mom always made potato salad or macaroni salad. I can remember our families usual dishes that would adorn the picnic tables like it was yesterday. We'd have cucumber salad, pork-n-beans, jello salad, copper pennies, and all kinds of cakes and cookies too. My aunt, Hotline, always made a big batch of Rice Krispie Treats and they were always my absolute favorite.
Being on a picnic gave us kids a chance to run around and play like there was no tomorrow. And we didn't have to worry about using our inside voices! I think picnics are a great way to have fun as a family. Doing things with your kids and sharing good times like this, is what instills the tradition of family values. I thank my parents for unselfishly providing me a stable home with lots of love. My brothers and I are very blessed to have parents like ours.
Memorial Day is a day to honor and remember our fallen heroes. This I will do. But for this little girl, Memorial Day is also a day for picnics and parades.