This was my first proper weekend, and it also happened to be a long weekend because of Memorial Day. I’ve had friends, co-workers, bosses in all three (or five, depending on your country) branches of the military. Most of them are some of the best people I know- intellectually curious, kind, thoughtful and motivated by a sincereness and clearness of purpose that seems to be rare in our generation. To honour their friendship and their presence in my life, I wanted to take some time to remember. In particular, to remember the service of someone close to my heart.
This is me with my grandfather.
Before he had three girls (the eldest of whom happens to my doppelgänger mom), he was in the Indian Air Force, serving as it was the quickest way out of poverty and into an education. He worked on his degree on the side, becoming a lawyer, because his heart was focused on alleviate social justice issues that he saw when he traveled around the country on different postings. He talks often about the friendships and the challenges that he and his comrades went through, and how the Air Force helped shape him.
I know he was one of the lucky ones, one of the ones that got to come home and live life more or less like civilians. For so many, the story doesn’t end this way.
With these thoughts in mind and more, I took the opportunity to go down to Arlington National Cemetery.
The first thing I noticed was how the headstones seemed to go on forever. It had young people, old people, men, women, Christians, Jews, spouses, children- all tied by a common cause.
From honouring those who didn’t get to come back, to past battles, Arlington was a sobering look at American history. Even more poignant when you realize the Civil War origins of the land.
It felt only right to end the tour with a monument to Canadian-US relations- the Canadian Cross. Because Canada entered WWI well before the US, many Americans enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces to join the fighting on the other side of the Atlantic. It was very moving to see this testament to our two nations’ special relationship.
In the spirit of remembering, I also went to the National Archives Museum this weekend to see the Magna Carta and the Constitution, among many other important documents. Pictures weren’t allowed inside so I took some pictures of the architecture and free advice available on the edifice.
I also got the chance to do something this weekend that was a reflection something I share with my other grandfather.
My paternal grandfather was a school teacher. He taught high-school English and their house was the site of most of my treasured childhood memories. While my cousins (all boys when I was young) were busy being hooligans and teasing the crap out of me, my refuge was the “library”. It was this wooden wardrobe, packed with books, some from previous summers and my uncles’ leftovers, but many of them were books that my grandfather used to teach as well as for his degree. You’d find mini spiders, silverfish and sometimes even fungus growing due to the intense humidity, but to me this was heaven.
A voracious reader, the fact that most of these books were meant for adults and not a 8 year old girl did not stop me from digging in. And that’s how I read my first piece of Shakespeare. I read it from the perspective of someone that saw the sexism (I mean, who wouldn’t) but nothing objectionable, perhaps because marriages on convenience were still commonplace in that day and place. I remember finding the play funny, and just a bit hopeful of the concept of someone being willing to cut through another person’s thorniness. When I heard the play was being put on at the Shakespeare Theatre, and with an all-male cast to boot, I had to check out The Taming of the Shrew.
The verdict: The setting was intimate, the play funny, the music was lovely but seemed a bit jarring at times and didn’t really push the plot forward. The lead actors were okay but all the other secondary character actors were amazing! Good interaction with the audience but was long. Make sure you have 3 hours to spare.
And here in ends what I hope is a weekly D.C. update for the next few weeks. Signing off by acknowledging how incredibly lucky I am to have both my grandfathers alive and to be close to both of them. This weekend, I am just oh so very thankful for all their sacrifices. And for all the sacrifices that friends and strangers in the armed forces (both currently and in the past) have made in the pursuit of protection and principles, thank you.