I've been buying and wearing the poppy since I was about 12. I'm sure I had poppies before that, but my first recollection of purchasing my very own (as opposed to having it handed to me at school) is in about grade 7. I used to spend a lot of time downtown (when downtown was SO where it's at in this city) and wiled away an awful lot of Saturday afternoons wandering through record stores, head shops and other cool stores along King St. Seriously? Who lets their kids "wander around head shops" when they're 12? Uh, did our parents even know where we were? Did we want them too? Nope...ah, good times, gooooood times....
Anyway, in my travels with my friends, I would always seek out a veteran and purchase my poppy. Back then, they were plentiful, and nearly every corner had an older gentleman standing quietly with his box of poppies, usually dressed in his legion gear. Sometimes there were women representatives, but for the most part, I remember the men. I'd put my money in the box and the veterans would always take a poppy and pin it on my lapel. A lot of the time they'd be cracking jokes and chatting, thanking me and telling me what a nice young lady I am, and to have a good day. But sometimes they were very solemn, their hands would shake, and I remember one veteran asking me if I would mind pinning the poppy myself, his hands just couldn't do it anymore. Usually I would smile, thank THEM for what they'd done and be on my way, often with tears in my eyes.
So every year around this time when I go to purchase my poppy, I remember the veterans of my youth. I don't head downtown as often anymore, but I bet if I did it would be hard to find someone on the corner selling poppies. I normally now buy them at the grocery store or the LCBO, where occasionally a veteran will be there selling, but mostly, it's just the box of poppies and a place for your money. I realize there are less veterans every year and I know that is considered a good thing, isn't it? The older veterans are dying, and there are less veterans to take their place. It's still a good thing to wear the poppy, but for me it means a little less when I can't thank the person selling it to me.
So how surprised was I in the grocery store last week to see a woman with a tray of poppies? I already had mine, and was I ever glad I did. This lady was crazy, practically assaulting people to buy her poppies. In a loud voice she would accost people with "hey, you need a poppy!" "Who wants a poppy?" "Come on, sir YOU AREN'T WEARING ONE YOU NEED TO BUY ONE!" It was a far cry from the quiet, dignified veterans that I remember, but maybe that's what we need to hear? Remembrance Day becomes just another day in our ad- and brand-filled world if we don't actually think about it, and I start to wonder how many people really do remember? And maybe what we need is more people like the grocery store poppy lady shaking it in our face and giving it to everyone going by with a "Bitch, you SO are in need of this poppy, do NOT walk past me..."
Lest We Forget. Don't make me have to come over there.