Today is Memorial Day, May 30, 2011. Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the summer in the same way that Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer. Both holidays were rather vague in the home in which I grew up. We rarely did anything of any importance on those days. We mainly ate breakfast, watched television, sat or laid around the house, took a nap perhaps, grilled meat and ate lunch, and pretty much wasted the day. There may have been years when we took a trip over one of those holidays but I hardly remember them if we did.
One year I remember we went to Eureka Springs, Arkansas over a holiday weekend and went to see the Great Passion Play. My parents never made hotel reservations and would always just show up at a motel and then argue about whether or not they would pay the asking price for a room. If they decided that the price was too high, then we drove on to another motel. My mother always went to the desk and asked how much the room was, then if she thought the price was okay she would come to the car and tell my father. If he thought the price was okay also, then my mother would get the key to the room and go inspect it to be sure it was clean and suited for our family of five. Then, she would go in and fill out the registration card and then we would drive up to the room and unload and begin exploring the room and motel. We three kids always wanted there to be a pool but most times my parents chose to stay at what was called a "tourist court" which was a family operated small motel that had places to pull one's car in beside the room one had rented. Some of those establishments had small playgrounds for children of the swingset variety but most did not have swimming pools. So, we children would play on the playground and walk the premises to explore it and then return to the room to be bored until it was time to do something else. Sometimes the tourist court rooms also provided a kitchenette in which my mother could prepare a meal adding to her traveling pleasure.
When we went to see the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas over that holiday weekend which was either Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend, my parents once again did not make hotel reservations and instead decided to stop at a tourist court and find a place to spend the night. This time the plan did not work out well because there was either a convention in town or more people wanted to see the Great Passion Play than we had counted on and every motel of any kind, including non-tourist court motels, were full. My dad decided that we should see the Great Passion Play since we had traveled from southeast Texas to Eureka Springs in a long drive and my mother would not be satisfied until she saw her savior nailed to the cross and hopefully risen again, or at least an actor portraying her savior. So, we saw the Great Passion Play which began near sunset and went on into the night past the bedtime of children and when it was over and my dad had negotiated all the traffic amid many horn honkings and impatience of the many drivers, we began to drive west toward Fort Smith.
Time drifted on and children fell asleep and we roused now and then when my father stopped the car at a motel for my mother to go in to see if they had a room available only for her to return shaking her head and the car began moving again. This went on for a few hours until finally we found a room in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which is a fairly good distance from Eureka Springs and a non-tourist court motel at a higher than usual price was found when the clock said 2:00 a.m. or so. I remember very little about that night except sleeping in the back seat between my brother and sister and then going groggily into the night into the hotel room that we would only sleep in before beginning our trip back to southeast Texas the next day.
That trip and others like it both with my parents and then once I had become a parent convinced me to always make hotel reservations before going anywhere that requires an overnights stay. Today I rarely travel anywhere, both at home and abroad, without having the reservations lined up months in advance. I may not always know where I am going but I always know where I will sleep when I get there.
Memorial Day should not be a weekend to take a marathon trip of 700 miles one way and then return over the course of three days. It should be more relaxed and restful, so that the spirit as well as the body has time to reflect upon why we have the holiday at all. Memorial Day began as Decoration Day soon after the Civil War so that people could remember those who had died during that terrible, tragic chapter in our nation's history. Both sides of that conflict had many, many young people who gave their lives for what they considered to be a noble cause. Today, the Civil War stands as the only war in our history where we Americans killed one another over our differences of ideas. Today, we mourn the loss of many brave young and older men and women who have given their lives in service to their country and who have lost their lives in their efforts in service. We honor them because they did something that many of us have never done and we would rather not do. We live freely because of their sacrifice and we pause on this one day each year to remember and give thanks and reflect, in whatever way we chose.