Statistically, we're far more likely to be killed in a car accident than we are a plane crash. Yet, many of us tremble in fear at the thought of flying. Most of us drive daily, and yet when we turn the key in the ignition, we're not thinking that "today I may be killed while driving my car." It would be difficult to complete the task at hand if we worried or obsessed over our safety. We simply drive, and do what comes natural, and most of the time, we return home at the end of the day, and go through the same routine tomorrow and the next day.
I would imagine that a soldier serving in a hot zone is a little more cognizant of his (or her) mortality when he goes about the tasks of his day. I would think that a heavy measure of dread and trepidation accompanies a soldier as he gears up for another day of battle. But I'm sure in the back of his mind, he never really thinks that today will be the day that he will die. To obsess over it would not only put himself in danger, but his comrades as well. So, like a driver behind the wheel, the soldier does what he has been trained to do, and instinct kicks in.
I've never really thought about the actual number of soldiers who have died in battle. I've seen photos of Arlington, and American cemetaries on foriegn lands, and it always overwhelms me. White crosses as far as the eye can see. Each cross representing a life cut short. Ive heard it quoted that the numbers of the known (American) dead from the wars - around 1.3 million, since the Revolutionary War. Many of us know families who have experienced first-hand the loss of someone they love on a battlefield far, far away. We've watched videos of funeral processions through towns where people lined the streets to pay their respects. We've wept over people we've never met who were willing to lay down their lives... men and women who "gave the last full measure of devotion", to ensure our liberty and freedom.
There are those who vehemently oppose military action/wars. There will always be controversy over some of the engagements in which we've been involved. Memorial Day, in my opinion, is not the time for arguing over the Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative opinion of whether or not we should be there in the first place. It is about honoring the men and women who have given all. Instead of staying home and playing with their children, tending to their families, working in a job making far more than soldier's wages, they died far away from the ones they love, often in the arms of their fellow soldiers.
I am unaware of any of my own family members who have perished while serving our country, but many of the men in my family have served, including my father, my brother, and all of my uncles. Army, Navy and Air Force. I am so thankful for their service, and thankful they returned home safely to us.
There's a family heirloom that sits in my living room. It's a hand-crafted blanket chest that's in the neighborhood of 350 years old. Inside this chest is a little "secret compartment". When my grandmother inherited it, there were some items inside the compartment. Among the items were some very brittle, faded letters penned by one of my ancestors from the battlefield. In the Civil War. He wrote home to his mother about "hiding in the ditch from the damn Yankees", about drinking bootleg whiskey that someone had obtained. Of his love for his family. Amazing letters. The story goes that the soldier's mother received word that he had been injured in battle. Though she was weak from having given birth a few weeks earlier and nearly hemorrhaging to death, she insisted that she be taken to the hospital to see her son. She and the baby were packed in the back of a wagon, and they traveled many miles so that she could be with her son. After days of travel, they finally reached the hospital, where she learned that her son, her brave young son, had died shortly before her arrival. He gave the last full measure of his devotion. North or South? Doesn't matter. He was an American, and gave his life for a cause in which he believed. I'd venture to say, that at some point in history, every family has been impacted by this supreme sacrifice.
Our nation today is facing challenges like never before. Over the years our government has become the epitome of Big Brother, and many of the actions of our leaders do little to honor the intentions of the men and women who got off the boats and founded our country those many years ago. It makes me incredibly sad to see the state of our nation, especially knowing the high price that has been paid.
Freedom is not free.
All gave some. Some gave all.
I hope there is a special place in heaven for the men and women who gave all.
May there always be a special place in our hearts for them, and may we never forget.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. ~Abraham Lincoln
~Originally posted Memorial Day 2010
Welcome to my blog. Thanks for coming! One day I hope my little piece of internet real estate will be home to lots of family photos, pictures of my scrapbook and card art, with some random thoughts and memories posted on a somewhat regular basis. Mostly my world is very predictable, but occasionally some excitement will find me, so visit often. Who knows what useful (or useless) information you may find here.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
From the May/June edition of Sweet Tea
A recent trip down Memory Lane (my article from April's online edition of Sweet Tea) took me through the halls of Statham Elementary, and into the classroom of my beloved first and second grade teacher, Miss Lance, and the sweet memory of her fabulous bulletin boards. One of my favorites had for its caption “April Showers Bring May Flowers”. I’ve always loved flowers. From a very young age, I learned to spot the bright yellow splashes of early spring daffodils, and they quickly became my favorite. My daddy called them Jonquils. There was an old homestead across the street from my grandpappy’s house, where the daffodils had multiplied over the years until a blanket of yellow sweetness covered the ground. The house had crumbled over the passage of time, and the only thing remaining on the property was a small bell tower… and the sea of daffodils. We always walked over and picked a huge bunch to take home for our dinner table. One year, my daddy decided it would be okay to dig up a few clumps to take home. “Thin them out”, as it were. He transplanted a few of the bulbs onto the bank of the little gully at home, and in a few years we had our own little patch of daffodils. Each spring my brother and I would pick a handful of flowers, and proudly present them to our mom. And as all good moms throughout history have done, she would give us hugs and tell us they were the most beautiful flowers she had ever seen (even though we had just given her a handful a day or so before), and would make a big deal out of putting them in a Mason jar, where they would live a few days before wilting. Then we’d do it all over again. Those daffodils grew on the gully bank for many years. I was sad to notice this year that they are gone. How long ago did they stop blooming? Was I just too busy to notice? What joy they brought to our lives with their pretty yellow faces smiling in the sun, and oh the fragrance!! I remember burying my nose deep inside the cup and smelling the sweetness. I always thought they smelled good enough to eat! With the mild winter and early spring this year, it seems that our “May flowers” are spent already, and we are left to enjoy the early-blooming azaleas and roses.
Though I’m not blessed with a particularly green thumb, plants and flowers were a large part of my life when I was growing up on Broad Street. My parents and grandparents owned D & W Greenhouses. You may remember the metal signs on each end of Mulberry that read Plants And Flowers For Sale. The greenhouses (still on my parents’ property) sat between their two houses, and it was a family business in every sense of the word. The first greenhouse, now the smallest of workshops on the property, was originally made from recycled windows. Glass windows. It was the coolest little place to be. Except once during a hailstorm. That was a mess! The house was ruined, as well as many of the tender plants growing inside. Undaunted, my dad rebuilt the house, and this became the seed and potting house, where the seeds were planted and nurtured, and later transplanted into individual cups made of peat moss. My brother and I spent countless hours watching our parents carefully extract the seedlings for transplant. We would rummage through the discarded ones deemed too spindly, and would pack them into Dixie cups using sand from our sand pile. The “good dirt” was far too valuable for us to waste, but we were determined to have our own Plants And Flowers For Sale. Needless to say, by day’s end, our little spindly seedlings were wilted in the sand, and once again thrown into the compost pile.
When it was time to plant the garden, neighbors from all over town, and some from out of town, would come to our greenhouses for their plants. And mostly they came at dinner time. During the spring months we rarely were able to sit down for dinner without a customer pulling into the drive. But after all… we had the best-looking plants around! Tomatoes and peppers of many varieties were probably our best sellers, and the ones I remember most. Big Boys and Better Boys were favorites. Seems like I remember the peppers and the “regular” tomatoes selling for a nickel apiece, while the Big Boys might have been a dime.
Even as a kid, I learned that beautiful plants and flowers require a lot of work. I remember every year my parents and grandparents would make the trek to South Carolina to Parks Seed Company, after poring over catalogues all winter. After working all day, they would stay up late into the night planting the seeds. Such anticipation! Though the houses were heated, my folks dreaded a cold snap after planting, because keeping the poorly-insulated houses warm enough to keep the plants safe was expensive. Then there was the year of the hailstorm. And the watering. My goodness. Who knew that you had to water those silly plants so often? At times, I was called upon to water the plants. I loved the smell of the greenhouse, with its sawdust floors, and liked to twirl and swirl the water hose/sprinkler in fancy patterns in the air, then listen for the pattering sound when it landed on the leaves, so it wasn’t such a bad gig. I wasn’t fooling the grownups, though. After just a few minutes, I’d come back into the house, then be marched right back outside to finish the job. I never did have quite the patience required to slowly water the growing plants, lingering over each one long enough to saturate the soil.
We had flowering plants as well. This is probably mostly attributable to Mama Nay, who loved her flowers! I don’t remember what all varieties we had, but I do remember the bold, red geraniums, the pink and white begonias, and the many different kinds of coleus. These were available for purchase as individual plants, or in hanging baskets. The Saturday before Mother’s Day was always a busy day for us. Dads would bring their kids, who faithfully counted out their dimes and quarters, to purchase a beautiful basket for Mom, or perhaps a flat of flowers for her to plant in her garden. Even all these years later, I still enjoy giving my mom a hanging basket for Mother’s Day. It just kinda seems like the thing to do, ya know?
Nowadays the small greenhouse is used for storage, and in the larger one, you’ll find my dad outside puttering around with the car that he built, or fixing things, building something, or just keeping busy. There’s a lot of history in those buildings, and a lot of happy memories. These days, he has a small potting shed out behind the smaller greenhouse, where he starts the seedlings for his own personal use.
Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, I remember those beautiful hanging baskets, and think of my precious grandmother lovingly tending the flowers. I’m so thankful to still have my mom, and so thankful to BE a mom (and a Greemaw). If you’re still fortunate enough to have your mom, remember this: While Mother’s Day is a great day to buy her flowers, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion. She’d love to hear from you today. I know this to be true, because my day is not complete without calling my mom, and without talking to my daughter. So what are you waiting for? Call your mama today!