With apologies to old hippies everywhere...
When I was a kid, we did a Remembrance Day assembly at school every November 11th. It was always the same. Our well-meaning teachers, who had come of age right at the time when Woodstock, love-ins and LSD were in vogue, yanked out the sheet music to such hippie-tastic numbers as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and put us to work celebrating the relative peace and freedom we continue to enjoy to this day.
I understand what they were trying to do, and I don't blame them for it. But I think those assemblies may have glossed over something very important. Remembrance Day is not about promoting peace. It's about remembering war.
On May 24, 1941, the HMS Hood was destroyed by the Bismarck at the Battle of the Denmark Strait. Some 1428 crew were killed, including my grandmother's little brother, a 21 year-old kid who, like so many others, had left the family farm to fight the good fight.
Every family has at least one story, from one point in history or another, that ends like this. So very many young lives were cut short to protect our freedom on this planet, and so very many others came home forever changed by what they'd experienced. The least we can do is to focus for one day a year on their sacrifices--ugly and unpleasant as those sacrifices were--and remember that they did that for us, and for our children and grandchildren.
Ten years ago, when I taught grade 3, I had my students ask their parents to tell them their family stories, and we made a wreath for Remembrance Day with the names of all our family members who had served in a war and what they did. I ended up hearing many stories. Every child had at least one name to put on that wreath, and I suspect some of them would never have had the stories passed down to them had it not been a homework project. I like to believe that in some way that that Remembrance Day project helped to keep those stories alive for one more generation.
This Remembrance Day, with his dad being overseas, Firstborn is showing some interest. My plan is to keep the frightening details of the Captain's work to myself for now. But I will also not be putting a daisy chain in my hair, donning a broomstick skirt, and hugging a rainbow as I croon "Blowin' In the Wind" either. Instead, I plan to tell my child the family story of my great uncle and the war in which he made the ultimate sacrifice. And I hope that one day, Firstborn will want to tell that same story to his own children.