Tributes, Memories & Milestones

Flowery Tributes
We honoured the 11th hour of this 11th day in this 11th month, as we have like clockwork, these past four years, by singing our national anthem, humming God Save the Queen and paying tearful, televised tribute to our war heroes, alive and dead for the annual and auspicious occasion of the 90th anniversary of Armistice this Remembrance Day 2008.

I don't like having to explain to the children this year what a poppy is and why they should wear it. It's one of the many small sacrifices of identity we make as ex-pats, I suspect. The kids easily spell favorite and think nothing of it. They say zee instead of zed but at least have the good grace to look at my guiltily when they do it. They're forgetting so much about Canada so soon and this makes me want to cry.

Holy Daughter pinned her poppy on her Brownie vest yesterday and she and her troop trekked off to the local Veteran's Hospital to sing songs, present cards and in her case, hand out poppies to the Veterans. It was amazing that some of the veterans recognized the significance of the poppy and were touched. It's not something Americans honour although of course, at Armistice and Remembrance Day celebrations elsewhere around the world, it's universally recognized as the symbol of peace reborn in the killing fields.

I used to have 'In Flanders Fields' committed to memory. Time and complacency have since dusted it from my childhood closets.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae

Holy Daughter said she felt this warm glow feeling in her stomach at having visited the Veteran's and personally thanked them for their service to this country. She watched the CBC ceremony on television this morning and wondered aloud at why there was so much French being spoken. And I'll admit - it seemed a bit much today - or so it seemed to this Westerner who has never found the bilingual cloak to be all that comfortable and fitting. But it was great to be able to see Canada's last WWI vet pass the torch via the big screen from the comforts of his living room to the vets and active soldiers alike of the wars that followed, up to and including Afghanistan.

Holy Son is off at an all-day Scout training day this Veteran's Day - he's not wearing his uniform but he does have his poppy pinned upon his scout t-shirt, for what it's worth. I asked him to break for a minute of silence at 11am. He said, "But Mom!" And I just did the raised-eyebrow thing and affected my no-blink, no-compromise stare.

Such is the plight of young foreigners on American soil ~ that they should have to be subjected to their parents weird homeland rituals that bear little meaning and relevance to their own Americanized lives.

I am only a fraction of the way into my Nanowrimo Rebel project - I got a little derailed by Holy Daughter's art project, soccer, Irish dance performance and Nutcracker rehearsals this past weekend, but I hope to get back in the loop this week.

My book is sectioned off into three parts - I, Don't and Know - the 'I' section is my 14 predominant roles or archetypes in life, the 'Know' part shall be my so-called wisdom text of 14 epiphanies and the 'Don't' section is my negative precept tales ~ it's the one I've been most sluggish about.

Case in point: today I'm going to tackle Pee...as in Don't Pee....which shall be my prosaic witness to a most embarrassing and debilitating time in my teenagehood ~ having LBS (leaky bladder syndrome). Whenever I see a teen girl wear a hoodie wrapped around her waist, I pause to wonder if she too suffers the same ailment I once did. Of course, now there's Depend. :) Not that incontinent teens, with their low-rise jeans and g-string underwear would be prone to wanting to sport a granny diaper. But I was desperate enough back then that I might have considered something, had I known there was an option. It would be a long time before I finally went in for bladder surgery. Proactive medical concern was not a family strong suit. We were nothing if not nuclear reactive.

Holy Hub flew home to Deadmonchuk over the weekend and drove his Pa's old pick-up truck back. It was loaded to the rafters with trash and treasure alike and a supply of poppies that will see us through the next few years.

Some of the treasures included a custom-framed Norman Rockwell needlework image Grandma Schmidt had made for Holy Son, Grossmutti's old grandfather clock, ceramic and metalwork candlesticks Holy Hub had made in his distant youth, retro train sets, and a great old Swiss trunk from the 1930s. We have nowhere to put some of this stuff so there it sits in our dining room and entryway, biding its time 'til it might find a more permanent home. Somewhere sometime.

Speaking of some who, what, where, when, why's, I'm preparing to launch my new year vision. Consider this my pre-launch party. My 2009 life vision theme is New Gold Dream: The Siren & the Ecstacy.

It seemed appropriate to pick a Simple Minds tune, first and foremost, because it will take a beginner mind vision of innocence and risk to pull this off. And also because the song and arguably the album, New Gold Dream, speaks to an era - 81,82,83,84 when I experienced one of the most profound archetypal deaths and rebirths. On this, the 25th anniversary of the end of that era, I think it's time to die again, in order that I might be give birth to a new gilded me.

Back in October of 2006, I blogged about this very song in reference to both my once upon a time and someday dreams. Here's the once upon a distant future day dreams I constructed that day:

  1. Someday strutting in a parade with the Red Hot Mamas ~ as an update, I did get to strut in the St. Paddy's Day parade with a bunch of Red Hot Mamas but yes, my parade dream is still largely alive, well and raring to strut her stuff
  2. Writing and self-publishing a children's book - here ye, here ye. I actually wrote a children's book last Thursday -voila! just like that - and am officially going on record here to announce that I am going to be shopping my manuscript to worthy publishers - the golden-tinge to this dream is that I hope to one day earn a Newbery and/or Caldecott honour for said achievements. Or die trying, anyways.
  3. Embarking on a six-month sabbatical as a family to a far-flung place in order to assist with an international aid project ~ this dream is fast approaching a need for speed, on account of Holy Daughter being in 3rd and Holy Son being in 7th grade. Time ticks, carpe diem and all that jazz.
  4. Finally learning to draw and paint ~ I've been flirting more and more with both of these but my inner chicken is Foghorn Leghorn in size and formidabishnish.
  5. Visiting as many key mystical and ancient civilization sites as time, money and energy will permit in this lifetime - I've been to a few but not nearly as many as I would like. Machu Picchu still beckons.
  6. Becoming a dragon boat racer ~ this one always ends up on next year's resolution list. Sad but true.
  7. Learning to breathe and meditate ~ a did a teeny, tiny bit of meditation this year but I still haven't jumped in with both feet, save vicariously, when I sent Holy Daughter away to a Vipassana retreat this past summer.
  8. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with Holy Hub one day ~ this would be very cool. Holy Son and Hub made a pact the other night that they were going to crack open a 38 year old bottle of Canadian Club whiskey on a Mt. Rainier outing on or near 2014. I should maybe see if we change this up to be a family pass-the-cup affair in the wilds of Africa. Not that packing a flash of whiskey all the way to Africa would be easy but who said life was easy?!
  9. Owning a vacation cottage or cabin in the mountains ~ still haven't made good on this, my most ardent dream. Shame on me. 'Nuff said.
  10. Writing my memoir ~ this is finally in the works!

It's funny as in remarkable that this top 10 list still vibes with me. Dragon boat racing could easily substitute for some other physical challenge or pursuit - a marathon or long pilgrimage hike could easily suffice, too. But apart from that - this remains my bucket list.

I'm pleased to verify that I've begun to act on some of these dreams, while keeping others in the forefront of my consciousness during these tricky, recessionary times.

Let it be known for the record though: 2009 is the year I guide, stride and high-tide them.

So on that note, I'll re-quote here the sage words I noted for posterity in my October '06 blog post.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the blowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in the your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Mark Twain


Shana said...

You know, when I lived in the US, I felt the same about loosing the little Canadian things, like Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving in a different month.
Marissa sang in the choir today. Last week, her Cadet corps had a nice service including a lot of veterans. I think it is very important.

Mark Twain knew what he was talking about.

Shana said...

I even have one of the poems that I wrote on the Canadian Legion website. Kind of cool.

Shana said...

Other than having sore feet from standing, Marissa enjoys selling poppies. All the money goes to veteran affairs, housing, medical supplies, and stuff like bursuries for dependants, and transportation.
It is so nice that the veterans are so appreciative of the help of the Cadets. All the Cadets went to the Legion afterward for hotchocolate that the veterans made. I find it nice to see the young kids with the older people. They had a service together last week too. It was nice

hatrock said...

Edmonton is a key city in that we have a lot of military here. I attended the Edmonton City Hall Remembrance Day ceremonies. I haven't seen so many people at it before. The Butterdome ceremony was standing room only. Seems more and more people are touched by war. Holy-Sis, I'm very glad that the kids are being touched by it somehow as well. One day, they'll get to watch a war movie and see.

Jeri said...

You know, when I was young we used to celebrate veterans day with the red poppies pinned to our shirts too. We'd buy 'em for $1, and the money would go to the VFW. But now you don't see them anywhere in the US anymore, I'm glad Canada still does it. It's a symbol with tremendous meaning.

Keep plugging away at your NaNovel! I read an 'on how I write' post a few days ago by noted SF author Elizabeth Bear and it made me think of you - lots of creative time spent away from the computer!

And if you don't make 50K this month - but do make 28K - then that's a whole lot further than you were in October. :)

Jorge said...

I always enjoy your writing, but this piece resonates with me on so many levels that I suspect it will long remain one of my favorites. Poppies and "In Flander's Fields" carries meaning that's too lengthy and personal to detail here. Instead, I offer your distressed bladder a new California varietal wine that has antidiuretic properties, Pino More. Enjoy the weekend, and rest assured - you are raising children who will do us all proud.


Holy said...

Shana: We still haven't dumped Thanksgiving Day - in fact, we 'do" Thanksgiving Day and then opt to do American Thanksgiving at a church potluck where there's no mess and little work to have to prep for. And yes, Mark Twain deeded his creed, I think.

BroFo: That's amazing that there were so many packed to the rafters Remembrance Day affairs in Deadmonchuk. War is hitting close to home now/again with Afghanistan and Namao being right there.

Jeri: Thank God for those e-mail pep talks - they sustain me. How did they know I was cheating with another writing project or that I was thinking of ditching?! :) I'm renewing my efforts in earnest.

Jorge: Yes, poppies strike a chord, don't they? And pffttt...OK, don't resurrect my little bladder problem with the Pinot More joke. I will have to look for that wine - it's name rolls off the tongue easily.

Jorge said...

Thanks for stopping by. Have no worries - my wife (aka Light of my Life) and a couple of bottles of my favorite wines would be at the top of my list. (I learned a lot from Omar Khayyam.) Be well,