In a small town, life is lived in close-up. One runs into family, friends, and not so friends alike in the space of a few blocks. Everyone knows the latest gossip instantly. And in a small town, the populace celebrate and mourn together.
The foundations of this house had just been laid in 1813 when the British invaded our peninsula during the War of 1812, and the house was not finished until after the occupation ended.
A couple of days ago, I happened upon my parents, suddenly in their 80’s, suddenly tiny and bent over, leaving for the cemetery to place geraniums at family graves for Memorial Day. I can remember back fifty years—my great grandparents going to the cemetery on this Spring ritual, then my grandparents, and now watching my parents walk toward their car with trowels and plants (they cheerfully declined all offers of help), I realized with a start that soon I will be the one taking the geraniums to the cemetery. Sobered and reflective upon this realization, I walked over to Seaside Cemetery (yes, the dead in our village enjoy ocean frontage), and paid a visit. Flags were fluttering on the graves of all known soldiers buried there, veterans of all wars since the 1812, when a local militia unsuccessfully defended against British occupation. The soldiers who served in the Revolution are buried in a yet older cemetery on my street.
I read that Memorial Day is not celebrated in many places nowadays. Not true here. In my lifetime, the veterans of the Spanish American and First World Wars have gone, and now marching in our parade can be seen the veterans of World War II (ever fewer), Korea, Vietnam, Bush War I, Bush War II, and Afghanistan. Behind the soldiers were cub scouts, and children on tricycles, just excited to be in a parade, not really yet understanding what the day is really about, and sadly, unless we finally learn from history, all too soon there will be a war for them to remember too….
From a quiet side street, a crowd can be seen gathering for the parade on Main St.
It was a breathtaking day—summer came to Maine early and with great sincerity this year–gone the rains that have dominated the last three years. The lilacs whose fragrance usually perfumes the parade were long past, the temperature is in the 70’s, and the sensation everywhere is of green leaves and brilliant blue sky and sparkling water. The excellent high school band played with verve, the veterans marched proud, the firetrucks gleamed. And the stupid Dilettante, not paying attention, snapped dozens of pictures, not realizing that he hadn’t changed the camera settings from video, resulting in snapshots that didn’t, hence there are no pictures of the color and pageantry here. Sorry.
The Dilettante discovered too late that his camera was on video and not taking the snaps thought he was capturing. This is the tail end of the parade, after the soldiers, the tank, the high school band, the firetrucks and the cub scouts….
Waiting for the parade to return from the cemetery
Old cars have been brought out for the summer, here with flags flying in honor of the day
The parade begins at the Legion Hall, in the original village academy building, where a small and dedicated group struggle to keep alive the memories of those who have served. The cannon on the lawn was fired in salute. Across the street, in the meadow in front of a village house, there is another memorial, a very evocative one, thousands of tiny white flags remembering the dead, military and civilian, killed in the current Bush War. Here each Sunday, a peace vigil is held. Just up the street lived my grandparents, and their neighbors, the Westcotts. Each family had two sons in World War II, the boys grew up together. My father and his brother returned safely—cruelly, the Westcott sons did not.
After a stop on the bridge overlooking the harbor, where a 21 gun salute honors the dead of all branches of the armed forces, followed by Taps, the parade moves on to the cemetery, where flags flutter on the graves of Veterans of every war since the Revolution, and a wreath is laid at the Civil War Monument in one corner.
The parade then breaks up, and we all leave for our barbecues.
Veterans of three wars on the Town Hall Lawn, 1920’s.