Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: Memorial Day Memories

I wrote the following six years ago after a local Memorial Day celebration that my children and I participated in:

In Thomas Moore's book, Care of the Soul, he writes that our goal should be "a richly elaborated life connected to society ... woven into the culture of family, nation and globe ... profoundly connected in the heart to ancestors and to living brothers and sisters in all the many communities that claim our hearts."

The Memorial Day celebration this past Monday presented just such an opportunity to be connected. As a history lover, I often have viewed myself as a bridge between the past of my ancestors and the future of my children. In my role as bridge, I've nurtured the children in activities that allow them to participate in community events such as the local parade. And so there I was watching the future walk down Main Street.

But before they got too far, we stopped at the town gazebo where the local American Legion Post Commander talked of some of those who had gone on, reaching all the way back into the community's memory to the time of the Revolution. While standing there, I thought about what a pretty picture it made with the gazebo in the foreground and the former Methodist church behind it. This reminded me that religion often plays an important part in maintaining the ties of family and community and connecting us to past generations.

But the future stirred (and wiggled and squirmed) and after the ceremony, the children couldn't wait to rush off for lunch. We spent the rest of the day celebrating like others have both past and present. We ate our fill of hot dogs and chips, went swimming on the gloriously hot day and in the late afternoon sat on the porch and had ice cream.

Later I remembered what local historian Lois Siggelkow wrote about one of the area’s cemeteries. Buried in Ellicottville’s Bryant Hill Cemetery is a man named Justin Rust. While still part of the future at the age of seventeen, Justin enlisted in the colonial forces and fought under General George Washington. His wife Margaret had a hand in making community connections in the village as one of the original organizers of the Presbyterian Church in 1829. 

The Rusts are not my ancestors. Like them, I originally came from somewhere else. But through time and place and choices made, we are connected by the community we settled in. It has become a community that claims our hearts. The Rusts are now a part of the past. By writing of them and others who have gone before, I continue to play a part in bridging the gap between the future and the past, until one day, I, too, become a part of the past. 

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