Overheard at... School
“I read it again now and can’t believe I liked it in high school. I guess it was just angst ridden like us. Now it felt whiney.”
We had arranged a book swap at school and, in between classes, the volunteers were talking about the classics we had read as kids. The children’s books were easy to review… things like Nancy Drew or Little House on the Prairie. But when we got to the high school level we all had different favorites.
It’s now clear I always leaned toward a British sensibility. The Importance of Being Ernest, Pride and Prejudice, even the Canterbury Tales were all favorites of mine- but American writers not as much. Many of the women were re-reading some of the classics because of The Great Gatsby coming out as a new movie. “What about Steinbeck?” asked one. “Oh, or Virginia Woolf?” said another. East of Eden by Steinbeck was a top choice for someone and a bottom for another. Everyone agreed, though, that J.D. Salinger fell flat compared to our memory of it as a teenager.
We wondered aloud why something would appeal so strongly to us at that age and came up with the teenage angst theory in the overhear.
As a writer it made me think; how do young adult authors write something that is true to who they are as adults, but is also relatable to a teenager or twenty something? The phases we go through in our lives are unique, not just in situation, but in tone. Even if I wanted to write for this age I am not sure I could pull it off… I don’t think I could have even when I was a high schooler.
I am glad to say, even on it’s worst day, my life was never angst ridden enough to match Salinger.
“What is Memorial Day supposed to celebrate, anyways?”
The good news is that this quote was said by a child. The bad news was that we all had different ideas about the answer. So far, our children have grown up thinking it is a holiday when all of the neighbors get together, make a big fire in the grill, separate out the kids drinks from the adult ones, and talk about the newest animals roaming our streets.
And oddly enough, I am pretty sure there is actually some basis for this tradition. My father is originally from a very small town in the mid-west. And many Memorial Days while I was young we celebrated by going back his home town to sharing their holiday festivities. This included a street parade (three blocks, from the firehouse to the courthouse) made up of horses, kids in wagons, all Miss Watsons who were still alive and able to walk, a few tractors with flags on them, and the high school band playing patriotic songs. At the end of the parade route there was a huge picnic set up, with tents and tables and, yes, a huge grill with a big fire in it for BBQing. I seem to recall some silly contests, like pie eating, and a speech by the mayor. I also clearly remember discussion about which animals were plaguing the farmers that year.
So, all in all, not that different from our own, more modern, celebration. The question I have is why? Why do we celebrate Memorial Day like this? How does it represent what the holiday is all about.
According to Time for Kids: Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of May. It is an occasion to honor the
men and women who died in all wars.
Not only that, but it was started in 1868 and was named Memorial Day 20 years later. Then in 1950, it became officially recognized when: On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a
proclamation calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.
So not only do we remember those who have died in wars, but we also unite in praying for peace. In fact, there is even designated a “National moment for remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time.” Somewhere in the BBQ set-up and fire building I think this moment was lost yesterday. I won’t let that happen again next year though.
And, actually, after the food was eaten and the kids had at least been told the part about remembering those who had died in wars, we did sort of say our own neighborhood version of a prayer for peace… it went something like this:
“Please Lord, let the raccoon who is at war with our neighborhood find a new home. Amen.”
Happy Memorial day to all of my friends, family and readers.
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