Word count: 500
Commemorating Dissonance and Marriage
It wasn’t apparent at first, this ironic connection between Memorial Day and her wedding day. A day of sacrifices remembered, a day honoring the fallen, those who had succumbed to conflict and discord. What did this have to do with marriage?
“Just pick a day,” was his hostile reply when she had pressed the issue, wishing to become an “honest woman”, not camp-follower warming his hearth, his bed. Friday, May 28th happened to start his three days off in a revolving schedule; not too soon that she couldn’t create her wedding gown in time, not too far away that her mother would continue harping, sure he would never marry her, since he had everything he wanted without the ceremony. Soon enough, also, that Daddy need never know she’d been living in sin. She hadn’t even realized it was a holiday.
Her mother-in-law never mentioned it was also the day her husband was killed, decades ago—a veteran, yes, but this was after the war. She knew this only from yellowed newspaper clippings in a scrapbook, discovered after her mother-in-law’s death. Accident or fate that, with her union, she celebrated his death every year?
Memorial Day, a day for remembering. But whose sacrifice did it venerate? Her own? She’d undeniably made plenty. Nobody she knew had died in battle—at least she didn’t think so. Not that it was necessary to know a person to appreciate that they had given their life, enabling her to continue living hers unhindered. Her father survived his time in a tin-can under Pacific waters—thankfully, since she would, otherwise, not be here. Still, he was gone now, so she thanked him mentally as she placed the old-fashioned “Shirley Temple” peony in the hole, its creamy petals sporting the faintest blush, reminiscent of the faint blush staining her cheeks as he gave her away so long ago, his stance proud, as it had been in that Navy photograph.
She wasn’t a parade goer—too loud, too crowded, too drawn-out, too often stuck behind some lumbering oaf who was oblivious of blocking her view. Today, she observed the holiday by working in her garden, digging into the humus, earth and herbs mingling their elemental perfumes, the buzz of insects hanging in the hazy air. Home. The best place in the world. Worth the sacrifice.
The marching band’s drums thumped across the water, underscored by brass and an occasional fire engine whoop. Having watched them stepping to an inner metronome as they practiced, weaving through the school parking lot, she followed them in her mind’s eye, along Main Street, a stop for wreath-laying at the monument, on up to the cemetery, sizzling under tall hats and sweltering uniforms, sun glinting off polished metal, flags flapping, children waving, veterans saluting the red-white-and-blue. Drumbeats reverberated in her chest. Sudden mawkishness made it difficult to breath. She faltered.
Comparatively, her Memorial Day sacrifice seemed insignificant, the dissonance paltry. All-out war had never been declared—she was merely a casualty of life.