Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Promise To Keep

For those that followed my older blog, you will be familiar with this piece...for those new to the Stepford Family, please enjoy. I would request all readers to take a moment of reflection to remember all of those who fought in wars of yesterday, and who fight today to protect the innocent, the weak...who are the very reasons that we are able to live the lives we do today.

This is especially personal this year, as my eldest son has decided to join our Armed Forces. May God watch over him, keep him safe.

A Promise To Keep

According to my eldest daughter, my husband and I are weird. Nobody else's parents insist that they attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, she protests. Be it on television, or in person, my husband and I insist that our family solemnly observe the day by attending ceremonies. For my husband, its a strongly held belief, bolstered by his grandfather having served in World War II. For myself, its something that I've always held to be sacred, believing that those that forget history are doomed to repeat it. Its also about a promise I made, almost thirteen years ago now. Every year since, when observing the Ceremony, I remember back to that one Remembrance Day that ensured that as long as I live, I will attend, observe, and do my very best to instill in my children the importance of the day.

I was a single parent then, working, struggling to meet our day to day expenses while still ensuring that I was there for my son. It was a juggling act at best, and I was known at work for always being available for shifts, so when I went in and booked Remembrance Day off, it came as a shock to my supervisor. “It's just Remembrance Day,” she protested. I couldn't make her understand that it was something that I simply had to observe, to teach my child about. He was only three at the time, and to him, Mommy having a day off work was a novelty, and I found myself attempting to explain why Mommy had taken the day off.

It wasn't easy, explaining to a 3 year old about the purpose of the day. As we rode the bus that chilly November morning, I did my best to explain to him, in preschooler terms, what Remembrance Day was about. Explaining that our 'good guys' had to go to war and fight the 'bad guys' so that people could be safe. I felt like I was walking a tightrope between wanting my child to understand the sanctity of the day without frightening him or glorifying violence. Explaining why the 'good guys' used guns when he wasn't allowed to play with them had me trying to explain 'big bad vs little bad' . I wondered if perhaps this had been a bad idea, if my child were too young to really understand, but on we went to the Cenotaph.

Standing on the sheltered bridge over the Cenotaph, watching the ceremony, my son's questions continued. I answered him, noticing a Veteran watching us from the corner of his eye. I felt self conscious, concerned that we were disrupting this gentleman's observance of the service. I mouthed, “Sorry” to him, and thankfully, he smiled and nodded at me.

After the ceremony ended, I gathered my courage, walked over to the Veteran and shook his hand.

“Thank you, Sir, for everything you did.”

"I was glad to do it." He replied.

“Is there anything I can do for you, Sir? We're just going to get some hot chocolate and a coffee, would you like to join us?”

He thanked me for my offer, but declined, so we turned to walk away. Just then he called to me.

"You asked if there was anything you could do..."

"Yes Sir?"

Fastening his eyes on my child, he said quietly, "Please...don't let him forget."
Somehow, I managed to speak around the lump in my throat, and whispered, "No Sir...I won't."

Years later, I met and married my husband. Had more children. And still, Remembrance Day is a sacred day in our home, to discuss the sacrifices that were made, the current war being fought, the parents who have lost children, the children who have lost parents. Three more times I've found myself having the same discussion with a bright eyed three year old, the good guys vs bad guys, right and wrong, and its never gotten any easier. I don't think it should. I think that trying to explain war should always come with difficulty, not with any glib or pat answers. Still, despite my daughter's protest that other families don't, we continue to observe.

I have a promise to keep. And I will never, ever, forget.