Holidays are like rules and records.
They all seem to be made to be broken. We give them literal and figurative definitions and then choose the one that benefits our situation the most.
Holiday, by literal definition, is a day when work is suspended to commemorate an event. Holiday, by figurative definition, is when work is suspended for an extra day off that gives us time to do the things we tend to ignore.
Figuratively, that’s why Christmas and Easter have changed over time. With the help of expensive gifts and huge family dinners, we forget the real reason why some holidays were created.
Memorial Day has fallen into that category. It was created to remember our war dead. It is now the end of a long weekend, allowing us to make up for lost time. It is a quick getaway or a picnic. It is softball and youth sports tournaments or a trip to a baseball stadium.
It is one of the three times — along with Independence Day and any Olympics — when we actively wear patriotic colors and chant “U-S-A.”
Then on Tuesday, it’s back to business as usual.
I have fallen into that trap more often than I’d like to admit. Today, though, I’d like to offer some perspective.
I remember Memorial Day as being a whirlwind for the senses when growing up.
It was the last significant stop before school ended. It was the day the family barbecue grill made its first official appearance. It was an opportunity to watch or listen to an afternoon Cleveland Indians game.
The big event for my family, though, was our town’s annual parade.
That parade had a deep meaning to my dad, although he never told me exactly why. Back then, I couldn’t understand the literal reasons, but now I have some figurative ideas.
During the week leading to the parade, my dad would break out his Korean War uniform to try on and see if it still fit. Every year, he volunteered to march in the parade as a member of VFW Post 3690’s color guard. I stood along the route with my mom and sister, trying to find him in the procession.
My dad would disappear during the weekend before the parade. It wasn’t anything sinister. I think it was his way of paying penance. Dad spent the Friday and Saturday before the parade building the reviewing stand to seat town dignitaries and Gold Star mothers, who earned that status for sons who were killed in battle.
On the surface, the holiday gave my dad a chance to play Army with his buddies again. But deep down, I think he was remembering the experience of fighting that war, while giving thanks and giving back to his fallen brothers.
It was all because he was one of the lucky ones who made it home alive.
I’ve been very fortunate. I have been honored to know a number of soldiers who have served and every one of them has come home alive. Some have gone back to serve again during this era of military involvement. Others try to get back to a normal life. Each returns with a heightened respect for what an honor it is to be an American.
Because of people like my dad and the others who served, this day remains the last checkpoint before summer begins. It’s time to savor a charcoal-broiled burger and catch an afternoon ballgame.
And when our favorite teams take the field, wearing some combination of red, white and blue to honor our troops and those who have fallen, we should really focus on the moment of silence and the national anthem before the game and the singing of “God Bless America” in the seventh inning.
Those are all small thanks to all those who have made sure we have this holiday in the first place.
After all, Memorial Day is one day that we truly all play for the same team ... both literally and figuratively.
Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at email@example.com.