Memorial Day is one of those holidays I didn't understand as a kid. It was always May 30, my Grandma's and my sister's birthday. (For a number of years I think my sister thought the parade was for her.) And somehow it signaled the start of summer.
We would always go to visit my Mom's and Dad's families in Port Clinton and Marblehead, OH up along Lake Erie. In my earliest memories, we would go to the parade (standing up each time an American flag went by) then cook out and play all day with our cousins. If we stayed with my Dad's parents for the weekend, we would be fishing the rest of the time.
Later, when Port Clinton added the Walleye Festival, the town had two parades. We only went to one, but I can never remember whether it was the Walleye Parade, or the Memorial Day Parade we watched. As young adults, we would camp out at my parents' old farm house (my grandparents' house) that was on the shore of the Sandusky Bay. We had three acres to hang out on and would invite as many friends as we could to go up for the weekend. We would swim, fish, have camp fires and just have a blast. Dad always had all of the inner tubes inflated before we got there. And he always found a way to get a TV with the Indy 500 close to our personal beach. (I only ever watched the last 5 minutes.) We would all go to the Walleye Festival at least one evening of the weekend.
Things have changed quite a bit now that my grandparents and parents are all gone. We still sometimes go up for the weekend, but we feel more like guests than we used to. The beach is no longer owned by my family, the old farm house is gone and the new house won't be ours much longer either. I haven't been fishing in probably 10 years.
But that is OK. Things change. Now we need to develop our own traditions and figure out our own way to celebrate this holiday here in Central Ohio.
This year we are having a big cookout for family and friends. What started out as just my brother-in-law's family coming over has grown to include about 11 more people. The more the merrier.
Tomorrow I will be entering my first ever Memorial Day race. I don't think I've ever entered a 5-mile race before, but I'm faster than I have been in a long time, and it should be fun.
I don't know what any of this has to do with recognizing the sacrifice that all of those men and women made, and keep making, to keep us safe. We live in a great country, one of the safest in the world, and I'm thankful I have the choice of going fishing, watching a parade or even entering a 5-mile race to celebrate the freedom we have.
So, this Memorial Day weekend, I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy yourself, your family and our country. And don't forget why we have the freedom to make these choices.