Decoration Day

This article has been posted before.  It has been received with a bit of skepticism over the origins of the day.  It is likely that the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War was taken up in many places during and immediately after the war, unknown to one another.  Some of these practices were reported in newspapers of the time, while others were passed down orally and written down later.  These later versions may have been supported by anecdotal evidence that is now hard, if not impossible, to prove.
Where exactly the practice of decorating graves started, and who should claim the origin is not really the point anymore, is it?  A tradition of decorating graves, and the meaning of the “holiday” are now largely lost.  This loss of historic knowledge, along with the loss of so many American soldiers, is the true sadness of the day.

Who will decorate the graves?

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see news reports covering how Americans are hitting the road due to low gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. And the Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

Advertisements

NO SPORTS, POLITICS, OR RELIGION

This past week I stopped by a local inn to see some friends. Two people ended up having a “lively” discussion on the outcome of the recent national election. Naturally, I thought of this guideline.

SERENDIPITY

Some Old World Wisdom, by Rich Paschall

When thinking of blog topics, there is no shortage of subject matter. Some general areas offer a lot of topics.  With a bit of extra thought, there’s an endless supply. Consider well how many areas you can pursue if you are willing to delve into sports, politics, or religion. Each is bound to set some readers ablaze. Would surely bring lots of comments. You do want lively discussion, don’t you?

How lively do you want it?

conversation1

Venture into a sports bar well into the evening and you are likely to find plenty of spirited discussions regarding sports.  These ideas should help you out.  Will the Cubs win another pennant?  Will the White Sox ever get the love the Cubs get?  Will the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup?  Will the Bears defeat the hated Green Bay Packers?  Will the Bulls beat the hated ____________ (fill in…

View original post 627 more words

Pride

When I posted the following three years ago, I purposely chose Gay Pride week in Chicago.  I also purposely did not mention “gay” anywhere.  I would rather let everyone decide which part of themselves they were most proud of being, and hope they could see everyone wants to have pride.  Also, to be proud of one thing in your life is not license to hate all of the other groups in your community.  Diversity is our strength, not our weakness.  Also note, at the time of this writing Benedict XVI was Pope. 

Everyone wants to feel like they belong, and they want to feel proud. One of the neighborhoods where I grew up was very Irish American. Indeed our parish was run by an Irish American bishop and there were always priests of Irish descent there. The Irish friends and families we knew seemed to enjoy life so much and were so proud of their heritage, it almost made you wish you were Irish too. Of course on St. Patrick’s Day just about everyone wishes they were Irish, if just for the day.
The next parish included the high school where I graduated. This fit our background a little better I suppose. My grandmother could sometimes be seen talking in German to neighbors. The neighborhood was and still is very German American. As we grew older we attended festivals and parties where we could enjoy our heritage. You could feel great pride in the traditions that remained from generation to generation. When the current pope was elected (at the time of this original article), old timers from the neighborhood began to just show up at church. Interestingly, the parish is St. Benedict. The pastor later told us that there was great pride in the election of the first German pope. People who came to church rather spontaneously expected something appropriate should be done, like say mass perhaps. They actually had not said mass in German for many years, but it seemed to be what would bring a great sense of pride to parishioners.
Support for, and pride in, our local sports seems to be taught to us from elementary school and little league and on through our adult lives. Chicago Bulls fans have had a great resurgence in pride the last two seasons that they have not had since the Michael Jordan era. Blackhawk fans have seen great improvement in recent years and even a Stanley Cup championship. Baseball fans always remain loyal. Even Cub fans inexplicably remain loyal and proud despite their continued futility (the current year’s awesome revival thrills lifelong fans). The many sports media outlets show fans every day who are proud of their local heroes.
With all the things that make us feel proud in our lives and for all the things we wish we can find pride in, why should we wish to deny any group the opportunity to feel proud of their community? Honestly, there are many parades and celebrations in this city for which I have no desire to attend. Therefore, I skip them, of course. I would never dream of showing up to voice my displeasure at something they wish to celebrate. Why then do some feel the need to do this to others? Whatever happened to love thy neighbor as thyself? Is it so hard for some to understand that everyone wants to feel like they belong, and they want to feel proud? I guess that is the point I started on, isn’t it?

Note: Comments in italics were added to the original article for purpose of updating.

Decoration Day

When I first put up this article three years ago, I was surprised to receive some backlash over the meaning of the holiday we now know as Memorial Day.  The origins of Decoration Day were told to me as if there was a bit of a conspiracy over the years since the Civil War to change the day’s meaning.  It is likely that the same tradition grew up in many places around the same time. 

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see the PBS Newshour was covering how Americans are hitting the road due to a drop in gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this drop to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. The Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

To not grow old gracefully

It is often said that we should learn to grow old gracefully.  Those who do not are sometimes looked on with scorn.  Perhaps you may hear that someone should “know better at that age.”  What is it that we should know better?  Of this, I am not sure.  I just know that a lot of people have ideas in the back of their minds of what old should be.  For a long time I thought being like my father’s father was the way to be when you are old.  I guess that may be in part because I always thought of him as old.  Of course 30 seems old to a child, but from his 60’s to his 80’s my grandfather seemed about the same to me.  Everything was taken at a slow pace and with good humor and I could not see anything wrong with that, as long as I was not actually old myself.

Age Appropriate

Age Appropriate (Photo credit: skittledog)

Except for the eccentric few, society has notions of what you should do, say, wear when you get old.  For example, you probably should not shop for your clothes at the Gap or some other shop that pitches all of its advertising at the young.  If you do, you may hear that your apparel is not age appropriate.  If you can not shop at Neiman Marcus I suppose you should shop at Goodwill or some place that will have stuff for old guys.  If you still fit into your high school or college clothes, they may not be correct to wear unless you have irresponsible friends your own age who do the same.

Sports is not a good ideas for old folks either.  When you sprain your ankle playing touch football in the park, you may count on someone saying, “He ought to know better at his age.”  It will be worse yet if you break something.  That will be the point that people will try to find out what kind of help you actually need.  If you are past 50, they will no longer pass this off as some sort of midlife crisis.  Instead they will wonder if you have reached early senility and should be kept under constant surveillance.

If truth be told, most people approaching the supposed golden years may want to partake of a lot of activities they had to put off while doing that all important action of “growing up.”  Work, family and a whole host of post high school, college or military life obligations may mean postponing things you really want to do.  A little extra financial security, if there is such a thing in these times, and a little “empty nest” freedom may mean you are ready to go off and live a life you wish you had lived when you were much younger.

Growing old gracefully will not be on my list of things to do.  I intend to continue to play loud rock and roll in my car until neighbors think I must have the sound up that loud because I can no longer hear it.  Trust me I have never stood in front of a loud-speaker like Pete Townsend blowing my ear drums out, but I nevertheless like to rock and roll down the highway.  While I sometimes wish my neighbors would tune it down after midnight, I am not always certain the same applies to me.

There is another important thing to know that may not always appear obvious to the younger set.  Giving up on the things that we love to do is a scary idea.  It signals that we have turned a corner into the final era of life.  No one aside from perhaps the clinically depressed wants to go there.  We want our lives to be vital for much longer than practical.  This may account for a good deal of the depression that afflicts the elderly.  It is the realization that you can not do want you really want to do.

When I see my younger friends going off to do things that seem like the type of thing I would like to do as well, I generally meet these times with a cross between jealousy and sadness.  I am jealous that they are doing things I can not, or because they are doing things for which I would not be included because I am not of the same age group.  Most my age seem to have family obligations that do not allow the freedom to run off on adventures like I can, so I feel a bit sad to know I have reached the point of being left behind.  I hasten to point out, I really could not do everything my younger friends do, but that doesn’t mean I would not secretly like to do them (or not so secretly sometimes).

There is much value in staying as young and vital as possible.  You can live a longer and more productive life.  When you start turning the corner of fall to meet winter, you will not find it so depressing if you have kept your good health.  Instead you will be able to still see adventure ahead.  If crossing 40, then 50, then 60 just means the opportunity for new and exciting things, then these will not be milestones to dread.  In fact they may hardly be a bump in the road.

Having cultivated friendships in many age groups, I now find that I can be in the company of those who are decades older on one day, and having fun with those who are much younger the next.  While a chronic condition has slowed me down a bit, it has not knocked me down at all.  If it does, I at least know some younger guys who can pick me up.  My contemporaries may have to let me lie on the ground a while until they can think of whom to call to get me picked up.  Therefore, we need to keep the young and strong nearby, if not indeed with us, at all times.  If someone, someday says I have not learned how to grow old gracefully, I think I will take it as a complement.

EVERY SPORT NEEDS ONE

Because the “gay athlete” stories never go away, here is a reblog of a story from last year at this time.

SERENDIPITY

The Openly Gay Athlete, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

If you have read any stories about gay athletes in professional sports you would certainly know about it.  That’s because no matter how often it has been stated, any article that mentions a gay athlete will state that he is “gay” or even “openly gay,” as if telling you he is gay is not enough.  I guess if you tell the press you are gay, then you are pretty open about it, and you certainly can’t take it back.  Reporters follow around openly gay athletes just for the purpose of asking them what it is like to be openly gay and play ______ (fill in the sport here).  I wish just once the athlete would respond that it is the same as being “openly heterosexual.”

Perhaps they should ask the reporter what it is like to be “openly heterosexual” and asking…

View original post 847 more words

Autumn

Les Alyscamps, Falling Autumn Leaves, Vincent ...

Les Alyscamps, Falling Autumn Leaves, Vincent van Gogh, 1888 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold…”

The changing seasons may hold special memories for some.  Walking outside into a particular type of weather may evoke a particular moment.  It may unlock a time from your memory vault, either good or bad, that you can associate with the weather, the season, or maybe just a certain type of day.  Like the autumn leaves, visions of your life may fall all around you.

When the weather changes from summer to fall, the most predominant image to me is that of football.  No, I am not talking about sitting in front of a television on Saturday or Sunday to watch college of professional football.  I am talking about the in the park, touch football sort of memories I accrued over many years in Revere Park with many different friends as teammates and opponents.  Whatever hard feelings there may have been over certain games or with opposing players have now blown away like leaves being blown down the street by a fierce October wind.  Only good images remain.  I would be a liar if I denied that this time of year makes me yearn for an autumn that will never be repeated.  Since I can not go back to those days, I can only carry the memories forward into the winter of life.  Fortunately, they are good memories.

Football was always a favorite with me so there are other memories besides the “weekend warrior” kind.  There are the years as a football official for leagues of boys playing in that same park.  Although I enjoyed working other sports as well, nothing compared to running out onto the field, with college fight songs blasting over the park speakers, as we yelled at the youngsters to line up for the opening kick-off.  We worked these games in every type of weather, warm and windy days as well as cool and crisp afternoons.  We not only endured driving rains but even some late fall snows that coated the fields and reminded us that winter was lurking around some corner that we were about to turn.

Of course, there was plenty of time spent watching football on televisions with the giant 19 inch screen. I fell most in love with the professional game after reading the best seller by Green Bay Packer lineman Jerry KramerInstant Replay made famous some Packer linemen and their opponents on the line of scrimmage.  Paper Lion by George Plimpton also was a great read, particularly for the amateur player, not quite good enough to play the pro game.  A couple other football books written in the same generation of players helped to capture a certain mystique about the game.  I doubt there have been any better books written about pro football since.  That these memories of certain books go with a particular season are an amazing thing to me.  Indeed I associate other books with other seasons as well.

“I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold…”

Summer could last forever for me now.  Since I can not improve on the fall memories that I pray will never fall away, I would then wish for t-shirt and shorts weather to stick around.  While summer is always filled with a certain sort of contentment, fall is filled with nostalgia for a by-gone era.  I can stand in the middle of the park and remember what was, or travel to the arboretum to immerse myself in colored leaves, but I can not turn back any clocks.  That is the reminder that autumn ushers in with its cooler nights and shorter days.

“Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song…”

If you live in the midwest part of the USA, you know that winter will come storming in all too soon.  Even if you like the snow of a Christmas morning, you never like the hours spent shovelling your walkways or digging out your automobile.  If you live in the “Windy City,” Chicago that is, then you absolutely know how a winter wind can “go right through you,” as many say here.  The meanness of old man winter is only welcomed by a scant few.  The rest of us understand so well that autumn points to the brutally mean side of Mother Nature.  When you reach the autumn of your own years, winter can not be made welcome, because you know that there is no spring to follow.  If you have not already stopped to smell the roses, or looked at the explosion of fall colors, then you have missed what nature and life itself has to offer.

“…but I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.”

There is a season for reminiscence and I guess that it is autumn.  If a cool fall afternoon can drive me to my computer to toss off some random thoughts, then I suppose the time is now.  For the people and times past that remain in my heart, I must declare that I miss you most of all, when autumn leaves start to fall.

– “Les feuilles mortes” music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert, english lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

Pride

Recently I saw a post on my facebook newsfeed questioning the need for a Pride Parade and Pride events in general.  Someone responded that if your group was suppressed or discriminated against for a long time, you might feel the need to speak out and express your pride in who you are.  It was an important response to the issue, but I see it as more than that.  It is also based in the need that people have to feel important, significant, meaningful.  We all look for purpose in life and we all want to be proud of who we are.

When I posted the following three years ago I purposely chose Gay Pride week in Chicago.  I also purposely did not mention “gay” anywhere.  I would rather let everyone decide which part of themselves they were most proud of being, and hope they could see everyone wants to have pride.  Also, to be proud of one thing in your life is not license to hate all of the other groups in your community.  Diversity is our strength, not our weakness.   

Everyone wants to feel like they belong, and they want to feel proud. One of the neighborhoods where I grew up was very Irish American. Indeed our parish was run by an Irish American bishop and there were always priests of Irish descent there. The Irish friends and families we knew seemed to enjoy life so much and were so proud of their heritage, it almost made you wish you were Irish too. Of course on St. Patrick’s Day just about everyone wishes they were Irish, if just for the day.

The next parish included the high school where I graduated. This fit our background a little better, I suppose. My grandmother could sometimes be seen talking in German to neighbors. The neighborhood was and still is very German American. As we grew older we attended festivals and parties where we could enjoy our heritage. You could feel great pride in the traditions that remained from generation to generation. When the Benedict XVI was elected, old timers from the neighborhood began to just show up at church. Interestingly, the parish is St. Benedict. The pastor later told us that there was great pride in the election of the first German pope. People who came to church rather spontaneously expected something appropriate should be done, like say mass perhaps. They actually had not said mass in German for many years, but it seemed to be what would bring a great sense of pride to parishioners.

Support for, and pride in, our local sports seems to be taught to us from elementary school and little league and on through our adult lives. Chicago Bulls fans have had a great resurgence in pride the last two seasons that they have not had since the Michael Jordan era. Blackhawk fans have seen great improvement in recent years and even a Stanley Cup championship. Baseball fans always remain loyal. Even Cub fans inexplicably remain loyal and proud despite their continued futility. The many sports media outlets show fans every day who are proud of their local heroes.

With all the things that make us feel proud in our lives and for all the things we wish we can find pride in, why should we wish to deny any group the opportunity to feel proud of their community? Honestly, there are many parades and celebrations in this city for which I have no desire to attend. Therefore, I skip them, of course. I would never dream of showing up to voice my displeasure at something they wish to celebrate. Why then do some feel the need to do this to others? Whatever happened to love thy neighbor as thyself? Is it so hard for some to understand that everyone wants to feel like they belong, and they want to feel proud? I guess that is the point I started on, isn’t it?

For more thoughts on your own true colors as well as the song below visit Don’t Be Afraid To Let Them Show on SERENDIPITY blog.

In The News

This and That from Here and There

In an era when too many people get their “news” from facebook and twitter postings, the loss of a real reporter is sad indeed.  It is especially sad when the reporter is working on an investigative piece for 60 Minutes.  Bob Simon tragically died in a car accident this past week.  He was a passenger in a livery vehicle that got into an accident.  The two drivers were not seriously injured.
The Bill Moyers web site ran two interesting videos as a way of telling us about the journalism of Simon. When Simon was based in the Middle East he questioned the connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda that others were trying to make. Simon also shows regret he did not more thoroughly investigate the Bush administrations claims regarding 9/11 in his 2002 story. We now know he got the facts while the talking heads were spewing opinions on the Sunday morning talk shows.  He was a real reporter who lived to see an era when so-called news people are only offering opinions.

Gary Owens also died this past week at the age of 80.  He had a long and extensive career in radio and television.  He was the voice of many cartoon characters and announcer to many shows.  If you can picture him in your mind without looking for his picture on the internet, then you probably know him from his best known role as announcer on the ground breaking television show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In (1968 to 1973).  The entertainment website Variety lists his many credits here.

Jon Stewart is doing something that David Letterman and Craig Ferguson are doing, walking away from highly successful television jobs.  At age 67, it might not be a surprise that Letterman has had enough of the grind, but Stewart is just 52 and reigns supreme on The Comedy Channel.  Can you remember who hosted the Daily Show before Stewart?  Probably not.  Stewart helped give the channel a wide audience and launched the careers of a variety of “reporters.”  Someone will have big shoes to fill there.

Major League Baseball would like to get more run scoring and speed up the game. The obvious problem is the fact that those two ideas did not go together very well.  One area of discussion is the strike zone.  Now that MLB has umpires who are calling the actual strike zone more consistently, MLB doesn’t like the result.  Yahoo Sports reported the story:

Sam Smith had a big night at the Grammy awards taking home 4 of the little trophies, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year (How are these different?) for “Stay With Me.” Does it not seem strange that the song won any award when it is a rip off of Tom Petty’s 1989 “I Won’t Back Down.”  Petty’s lawyers didn’t back down and they reached a settlement back in October which did not come out until January.  Now Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, formerly of ELO, get song writing credits.  Smith also had to hand over royalties to Petty and Lynne as co-authors. At least Petty took the high road in his comments.  “About the Sam Smith thing. Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam. All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by.”

Benedict Cumberbatch, a frequent target of gay rumors on some entertainment sites, the ones I read anyway, married Sophie Hunter on Valentine’s day.

Alex Rodriguez has rejoined the Yankees and will make 61 million over the next 3 years.  Do you think he will sue the Yankees for the additional bonus money they are going to refuse to pay him if he meets certain milestone achievements?

Hunter Hayes had a good week.  No, he did not win a Grammy for Invisible, but he did get to host some “premiere” Grammy events online prior to the broadcast and he did get to be in the company of big name stars.  We talked about Hunter last Sunday on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com) and you can find that article here.

Here’s the Tom Petty rock classic.  If you know the Sam Smith song, you will find you know this one too:

Notice the big name stars backing up Petty on the video.

Autumn

Les Alyscamps, Falling Autumn Leaves, Vincent ...

Les Alyscamps, Falling Autumn Leaves, Vincent van Gogh, 1888 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold…”

The changing seasons may hold special memories for some.  Walking outside into a particular type of weather may evoke a particular moment.  It may unlock a time from your memory vault, either good or bad, that you can associate with the weather, the season, or maybe just a certain type of day.  Like the autumn leaves, visions of your life may fall all around you.

When the weather changes from summer to fall, the most predominant image to me is that of football.  No, I am not talking about sitting in front of a television on Saturday or Sunday to watch college of professional football.  I am talking about the in the park, touch football sort of memories I accrued over many years in Revere Park with many different friends as teammates and opponents.  Whatever hard feelings there may have been over certain games or with opposing players have now blown away like leaves being blown down the street by a fierce October wind.  Only good images remain.  I would be a liar if I denied that this time of year makes me yearn for an autumn that will never be repeated.  Since I can not go back to those days, I can only carry the memories forward into the winter of life.  Fortunately, they are good memories.

Football was always a favorite with me so there are other memories besides the “weekend warrior” kind.  There are the years as a football official for leagues of boys playing in that same park.  Although I enjoyed working other sports as well, nothing compared to running out onto the field, with college fight songs blasting over the park speakers, as we yelled at the youngsters to line up for the opening kick-off.  We worked these games in every type of weather, warm and windy days as well as cool and crisp afternoons.  We not only endured driving rains but even some late fall snows that coated the fields and reminded us that winter was lurking around some corner that we were about to turn.

Of course, there was plenty of time spent watching football on televisions with the giant 19 inch screen. I fell most in love with the professional game after reading the best seller by Green Bay Packer lineman Jerry KramerInstant Replay made famous some Packer linemen and their opponents on the line of scrimmage.  Paper Lion by George Plimpton also was a great read, particularly for the amateur player, not quite good enough to play the pro game.  A couple other football books written in the same generation of players helped to capture a certain mystique about the game.  I doubt there have been any better books written about pro football since.  That these memories of certain books go with a particular season are an amazing thing to me.  Indeed I associate other books with other seasons as well.

“I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold…”

Summer could last forever for me now.  Since I can not improve on the fall memories that I pray will never fall away, I would then wish for t-shirt and shorts weather to stick around.  While summer is always filled with a certain sort of contentment, fall is filled with nostalgia for a by-gone era.  I can stand in the middle of the park and remember what was, or travel to the arboretum to immerse myself in colored leaves, but I can not turn back any clocks.  That is the reminder that autumn ushers in with its cooler nights and shorter days.

“Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song…”

If you live in the midwest part of the USA, you know that winter will come storming in all too soon.  Even if you like the snow of a Christmas morning, you never like the hours spent shovelling your walkways or digging out your automobile.  If you live in the “Windy City,” Chicago that is, then you absolutely know how a winter wind can “go right through you,” as many say here.  The meanness of old man winter is only welcomed by a scant few.  The rest of us understand so well that autumn points to the brutally mean side of Mother Nature.  When you reach the autumn of your own years, winter can not be made welcome, because you know that there is no spring to follow.  If you have not already stopped to smell the roses, or looked at the explosion of fall colors, then you have missed what nature and life itself has to offer.

“…but I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.”

There is a season for reminiscence and I guess that it is autumn.  If a cool fall afternoon can drive me to my computer to toss off some random thoughts, then I suppose the time is now.  For the people and times past that remain in my heart, I must declare that I miss you most of all, when autumn leaves start to fall.

– “Les feuilles mortes” music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert, english lyrics by Johnny Mercer.