Cynthia L. Eppley, MA
Memorial Day 2020
This weekend is Memorial Day. It is considered the start of summer, and if you live anywhere near the Jersey Shore, or Delaware Shore, for that matter, it is a big event.
This is the opening start on the economy for small business owners.
Considering the decimation of COVID from an economic standpoint, this is no small concern.
This is not a political statement for “Opening up” the economy, or a plea for Distancing. It is an observation.
“Average town USA”
I grew up in Salem, NJ. This town was a beautiful, charming place to grow up. Tree lined streets, neighbors who knew you and looked out for you. We stayed out all day to play, and came home when the street lights came on. We roamed the neighborhoods freely with our friends.
In the summer of 1964 TV news anchor David Brinkley decided to profile an average American small city, one that adhered almost identically to the national averages in every way. Out popped Salem, N.J. So Brinkley and his pollsters descended on our county seat to spotlight the tiny town during election time.
I did not know the background to elections; I was 10.
Memorial Day Past
The holiday used to be heralded with parades of bands, fire engines and veterans proudly marching. I remember my heart swelling with pride as they tromped by. In my younger days it was a mystery and little understood. Respect was a kernel that was growing in my young heart. And last but not least, bicycles. Kids would decorate their bikes with streamers and join the parade.
The fire engines were graced with large flower memorials of past veterans. My mother continued to place flowers there in memory of my Dad, Sergeant Joseph G. Lippincott, Sr. Later, the flowers were taken to the center of town to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park Bandshell. The many arrangements were a testimony to the sacrifices of the men and women of Salem County. It was a place of silence, reflection and respect.
My Dad and Mom would take us to the cemetery to plant geraniums by the graves of our forefathers. They were always red, and always from the same greenhouse. We carefully dug up previous plantings, and loosened the ground for the newcomer. Tamping the ground down gently and giving it a generous watering. Standing up, observing the gravestone dates and remembering those who had gone before us. Perhaps with a short story or warm memory. Always with a wistful spirit. There were those taken as children, and those gone far too soon. We were taught to not walk on the ground in front of the headstone as that is where the coffin was laid. It was a matter of respect.
Veterans had a bronze plaque placed in front of their gravesite. There, a small American flag would be posted. As we stood to look across at the fields, and a bit away, the marsh, we could see them fluttering in the breeze. I remember this as being sunny, warm, and not sad. Later, there would be a ceremony at Salem County Veterans Cemetery.
In the afternoon, we made a dash for our Summer home, Sand Burr Lodge, or “The Cottage.” Grilling would waft the aroma of hot dogs and hamburgers into the breeze. Mom always made a boatload of potato salad. What picnic would be complete without it? It had plenty of celery seed. My brother, Gill, would affectionately tease her and say, “Do you have enough floor sweepings in there, Mom?” Friends would join us, and there would be laughter and warm fellowship. It felt like a safe place. If the weather was warm, and even if it wasn’t, we would beg our parents to let us jump into the Delaware River. It would still be chilly in the Spring. But for kids? I don’t remember the cold; I remember the thrill of the first summer swim. And family and friends.
Memorial Day Present
This year will be so very different. 56 years has changed Salem, NJ: Averagetown, USA.
So much has changed in all of our towns. So much has changed in our own country and counties. So much has changed in each of our lives; in me. Safe places of the past may not feel so safe now.
One thing remains the same: the respect and gratitude that was instilled in me in an early age has grown and matured. The service of our Doctors and nurses, our health care workers, our food service people, our delivery services? Maintenance crews, disinfectant services in hospitals, nursing home staff, Service men and women. Our respect and honor for those who have served is now broadened.
There will be no parades this year. Instead, there will be Social Distancing. The news has been full of speculation of beaches opening, and with what precautions. If you go to the Jersey shore, make sure you have 6 ft. between you and your neighbor. Strong opinions abound: to open the shore means economic salvation for small businesses. To open means increased risk for vulnerable populations.
And honestly, even if it is not a shore issue? Wherever you live, even internationally, these questions arise:
How do we keep safe? How do we diminish the risk? How do we move forward from COVID?
There are no easy answers to these pressing concerns. I will leave that to political pundits, doctors, and lawyers to debate. It is beyond the scope of this blog to address it all.
But I do know that these questions reside in the heart of every man, woman, and child. The questions remain, and the answers remain the same.
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” https://youtu.be/Ty8tw7ydxB4
“O God, our Help in Ages Past, Our Hope for years to Come. Our shelter from the stormy blast And our eternal home. Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure; Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.” https://youtu.be/N-hN740J6qA