We have some pretty wacky holidays in this country. National Pancake Day. Checkers Day. Cheer Up The Lonely Day. But Memorial Day is far from wacky, even if its meaning sometimes gets a little lost.
Memorial Day unofficially marks the start of summer. This long weekend means barbecue, boats and family gatherings. It’s a chance to break out that bikini and show off how hard you’ve been working to shed those winter pounds. (Well, ok, if it’s not raining…)
Memorial Day also gets somewhat confused with Veterans Day, which is also a great and special holiday, when we honor all who have served in our military. Memorial Day, however, focuses on those who gave all in service to our country. The ones who never came home.
According to History.com:Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Time ran a fascinating article today dating the holiday’s history to 1865 and slaves in Charleston, SC.
No matter when it began, Memorial Day is our chance to give pause and acknowledge (and silently thank) the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to help ensure our freedom and way of life. The people who never came home to their loved ones waiting arms. The ones who never got a chance to hear us — the people they vowed to protect and who live in the country they served — say thank you.
So today, amid beer, barbecue and the competitive game of horseshoes, take a moment in silence to honor these soldiers’ memories.
Yesterday, I took the day off. My husband and I got up and hit the road on the motorcycle, finally taking in the Natchez Trace Parkway. We driven parts of it in the truck before, but this was our first ride on bike.
We kicked it off with snacks at the Loveless Cafe (along with a whole lot of other bikers!)…
We were on no time schedule, so we sat for a long time at a picnic table just people watching. Lots of travelers! We talked for awhile with a woman from Florida. We watched a family take photos, documenting their vacation. We cracked ourselves and the cashier up at our sheer determination NOT to break a $20, paying with quarters and pennies. She told us it was, “Impressive.”
We hit the road, and we were treated to amazing views and lots of wildlife. We watched a doe and little fawn race across the highway in front of us. Later, another deer crossed in front of us… close enough that we had to slow down a little, though we weren’t in any danger.
We saw lots of wild turkey and had a buzzard fly over us so close we could have reached up and touched it. We even passed a groundhog just chillin’ in the shade. (I half expect him to go, “Allen! Allen!”)
One of my favorite moments was when we discovered an 1812 Memorial… perfect for Memorial Day. It reads:
“This Monument memorializes war of 1812 soldiers buried along the Old Natchez Trace, and it honors the service of all brave volunteers who marched on the Natchez Trace during the War of 1812 to help establish American Independence. The Natchez Trace served as an important route to move troops for the defense of the Gulf Coast Region. Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry under leadership of Andrew Jackson marched down the Natchez Tract to Natchez in January 1813. Gen. Jackson marched with his soldiers on their return April 1813. Soldier detachments under Jackson’s command again marched on the Natchez Trace in 1814, and following the victory at the Battle of New Orleans, most of the Americans who fought the Battle returned on the Trace. Volunteers marched hundreds of miles often in severe weather with little food and inadequate equipment. Natchez Trace Inns served as hospitals, soldiers who did not survive the marches are buried in unmarked graves along the Trace. On Gen. Jackson’s return near this point. He proclaimed his view of the significance of the victory earned by the soldiers sacrifices. “Our rights will henceforth be respected.””
The sun started to fade on us after awhile, and we were getting hungry. We made one more stop, at Water Valley Overlook… stretching our legs and plotting our trip back into Nashville.
As we stood taking in the view, the silence was broken by far-off gunshots — something that you don’t blink at that far in the country — and the loud call of an owl in a near-by tree. It was… the perfection of being in the middle of “nowhere.”
We took a lot of small back roads back into town, finishing the trip the best way possible (versus getting into the “rat race” of Interstate travel.) We planned to have dinner at our favorite tavern, but we got there only to find them closed for the holiday.
Our second choice was the Flying Saucer, who was having their pint night. As a bonus, if you purchased certain beers, the money went to Red Cross Oklahoma relief. So we each had one pint to Oklahoma! (My husband also had a beer from his home state of Oregon.. Rogue beer yummies!)
We headed home, both extremely relaxed. After I talked to my Mom for a little while, you couldn’t even count to three and I was OUT. I got the most peaceful, relaxed sleep I’d had in awhile. The day left me with a refreshed soul that you can only get by stepping away from everyday life and remembering… remembering how amazing nature and life is, and by remembering those who gave all for the freedom to enjoy days like yesterday.