I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that a great many folks celebrated Memorial Day with their family and/or friends. And, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that food was involved, possibly a great deal of food. Hopefully, there was some time for reflection on the true meaning of the day, but on the whole, probably most of it was spent engaged in wholesome (or not so) activity.
Our bunch usually gathers at somebody’s house where we gorge ourselves on all kinds of meat from a local bar-be-que spot (and beans, and slaw, and potato salad, and . . .) then settle in to watch whatever sporting event happens to be on, unless you’re not a sports fiend (that would be yours truly) in which case you find some other means with which to occupy your time. There may be the traditional scrolling of the phone, the checking of Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever your preferred social media platform might be, some random conversation, Hide-N-Seek with the grandkids . . . you know the drill.
But this year was a bit different. Instead of descending upon some poor soul’s abode, we gathered at a nice little cabin that sits on a small lake in the middle of approximately 100 acres of woods—a nice little cabin that doesn’t have cable . . . or internet . . . or satellite . . . not because it isn’t available, but by choice.
At one point during the evening, after everyone had eaten to way beyond their heart’s content and had settled in, I looked around the room. At one end, my son sat on the loveseat that once graced the upstairs of my parents’ apartment, drinking a cup of coffee and conversing with my son-in-law, who sat across the coffee table from him—the coffee table that resided in the formal living room of the house where I grew up—in a chair that occupied that same room but was turquoise at the time (evidently the predominate color for decorating in the mid-50s). On the other end of the room, gathered around the dining table that seats eight and came from the cabin my grandparents once owned in Hickory Valley, were my husband, my two grandsons, and a forever friend of ours who was always known to our kids as Uncle Tommy. It confused them terribly when they were old enough to realize he was in no way related to us. They were playing card games with a deck my husband brought from home—a deck provided by Wilbert Vault Company an eternity ago. At the opposite end of the table sat my in-laws, with my granddaughter in her great-grandmother’s lap and her great-grandfather playing with her.
I had seated myself on the hearth, across from my daughter in one chair and my daughter-in-law in the other. The latter had possession of Malcolm, the newest member of the family, who did not have bar-be-que but was well-fed none the less and was being lovingly snuggled by his Aunt Nat. The night had gotten a bit late, and a few extended family members had already departed, but as I looked around I suddenly realized how perfect this night was. There were no sporting events blaring across the house (not that there’s anything wrong with that . . .), no phones out, no mindless scrolling through whatever. We were actually talking to each other. We were giving other human beings our undivided attention without some electronic device in between us. We were enjoying our time together . . . and it was perfect. Wonderfully, wonderfully perfect.
I know not everyone is as blessed as I was on that night. And I know not everyone has a cabin that’s still in the dark ages, technologically speaking . . . but I also know most everyone has fingers—fingers that can be used to push the off button on the remote or that can be trained not to mindlessly reach for a phone instead of looking the people around you in the eyes and talking to them. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve gone to restaurants and watched as people took their assigned seats, immediately pulled out their phones, and immersed themselves in a world that, quite honestly, doesn’t really exist, to the total exclusion of everyone else.
So what’s the point of all this reminiscing? Hopefully to remind us (and that includes me) that the day will come when the people around us won’t be around us anymore. Sooner rather than later, some of the folks that I shared Memorial Day with will no longer be here. My father-in-law celebrated his 90th birthday this year; my mother-in-law is a few years behind him. And if anyone should ever realize that Death doesn’t play favorites and certainly doesn’t pay attention to age, I would be that person. Please, people. Put your phones away. Not just down, but completely, totally away. Give the ones you love your undivided attention while you can. You can’t make memories when you’ve got your head buried in a phone, and one of these days, memories are all you’ll have.