Thursday, May 26, 2016

Making a Memorable Memorial Day!

Summer is just around the corner. For many, school is out, or it is nearing the end. Memorial Day is the holiday that usually signals the beginning of summer vacation. It was one of my family's favorite holidays. We usually got up early and headed downtown to get a good spot to watch the parade. Since we lived in a military town, the Memorial Day Parade was a very big deal. There were lots of floats, marching bands and military units. My brother even marched in it a couple of times with the Boys' Clubs of America (This was before it became the "Boys and Girls Club"). We were so proud of him. I was five years younger than Jim, so my dad would lift me up on his shoulders and hold me high so I could see my brother march by, holding the Boys' Club flag. It was a very special occasion.

After the parade, we would either go to the city park for a Memorial Day picnic with our church group or we would have a family cookout in our backyard. The menu was always the same: hot dogs, potato chips and watermelon for dessert. My dad always invited some of the sailors who were stationed in Norfolk and who didn't have families in town or homes, other than on board their ships. It was always interesting to visit with them and learn about where they were from and some of their holiday traditions.

Most of our family lived in North Carolina or Florida, but for a few years my Uncle Bob was the pastor of a church near us. It was always a special occasion when they would join us. Uncle Bob, Aunt Retha and their children, Carol, Bobby, Buddy and David were full of fun and energy. My parents would entertain my aunt and uncle and Jim and I would take care of the cousins. We would play outside all day, ending the evening with a rousing game of "Hide and Seek" and finally capturing lightning bugs and putting them in jars with the lids poked full of holes. It was indescribable fun. My parents, brother, uncle, aunt and two of my cousins are no longer with us, but Buddy and David and I try to get together on occasion, or at least stay in touch, even though we now live hundreds of miles apart.

Making memories is one of the most important things we can do as parents and teachers. In thinking about this post, I researched books about Memorial Day. Although there are books on the shelves that take on this topic, I did not find anything that I was thrilled about, which leaves an opening for a children's book author to pen a really good piece to fill this somewhat empty hole. Instead, I decided to concentrate on books for the summer.

As a child, one of the things I looked forward to in the summer was having the time to read to my heart's content. There are books that still touch my heart when I see their titles, simply because they helped fill my summer days with joy. I loved books about Spin and Marty and anything Disney. The day the Book Mobile arrived was a red-letter day. I was in total heaven! That is the euphoria I wanted my children to feel when they entered the library. Today, I want my grandchildren to experience that same feeling. Books are not just entertainment--they become personal friends, friends we will have for a lifetime.

So as you get ready to celebrate this upcoming holiday, make plans with your children to get library cards and schedule a regular date with the library. Your summer vacation will be enriched and your children will grow as a result.

If you should have a child who likes horses and is reading chapter books now, take a look at my latest book, Summer of the Wild Horses. Set on the Outer Banks, this story tells about one family's summer vacation and how an injured wild horse changed their lives forever. I do hope you will get it (available on Amazon.com) and read it together.

I also hope you will do some research and share the story of Memorial Day with your kiddos so they will come to appreciate it's importance to our society. Plan a special day--have a picnic, go to a parade, have a pet parade (if you don't have any local parades to attend), but do something special to make a memory. Find some veterans and make "thank you" cards to take to them. If there is a military cemetery in your local, check with the caretakers to see if you can help place miniature American flags on the tombstones to celebrate the day. If you investigate this holiday, I'm sure you will find a very special way for your family to celebrate--something that can become a family tradition, and a memory that will last a life time.

Have a Happy Memorial Day!