Jewish World Review May 24, 2002 / 13 Iyar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | "Days" don't move me much. Memorial Day is not a day I remember friends who died during World War II any more than I remember them other days. Fragmentary memories of them often come to mind, evoked by something I see, hear or experience. I enjoy thinking of them for a moment, wince at the thought they're gone forever, then put them out of mind and go about my day. Tears come to my eyes unbidden 10 times a year when I think of my boyhood friend Obie Slingerland, who died on the deck of the Saratoga when he landed his plane with a bomb hung up in its bay. I don't need a Memorial Day to remember friends like Obie or Bob O'Connor, Bob Post, Bob Taft, Charley Wood or Bede Irvin. They died in World War II having lived less than half the life I've enjoyed.
We have so many "Days." Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day when I was a kid. At some point, the name was changed to Memorial Day and set aside to honor all war dead. That seemed like a step in the right direction. Armistice Day, a federal holiday, was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.
It seems to me all these "Days" don't really do much for those they're intended to honor. When my mother was alive, I didn't love her more on "Mother's Day." I got caught up with the "Mother's Day" pitch by the card, flower and candy promoters but I always resented it. She would laugh if I bought her flowers or candy, dismissing it as silly and something I didn't have to do. However, I always suspected she might have missed it just a little if I hadn't done it. Margie doesn't sit by the phone waiting for it to ring on Mother's Day but when it did ring at 6 p.m. on May 12, she said, "There's the last one." She'd kept track.
If none of our four children ever called me again on Father's Day or my birthday, it wouldn't make me think they didn't care. I know them too well.
Columbus Day, St. Patrick's Day and Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday are good rallying days for the Italians, the Irish and black Americans. It's good for them to get together to indicate their pride in their heritage, but I don't think Columbus Day or Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday should be federal holidays. The Irish, at least, have had the good sense to celebrate St. Patrick's Day on Sunday when drivers are not trying to get to work.
Washington's Birthday is observed as a federal holiday on the third Monday of February. Twelve states have tried to make sense of honoring Lincoln and Washington by establishing "Presidents Day" to honor both of them but it isn't a federal holiday. The silly but good holidays are Halloween, Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving. I don't know how we let Thanksgiving in so close to Christmas. It's good if you don't mind having turkey on two occasions so close together.
I don't like to see days off proliferate. There are five great holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. We need Labor Day because it's the real New Year's Day and a signal that summer vacation is over.
05/22/02: The history of history