Friday, November 09, 2007

i will remember you

I'm happy it's Friday, yo. And for me, a nice long weekend in honour of Remembrance Day on the 11th. Yeah, you heard me, those of us in health care get that day off. So give it up.

Usually on Remembrance Day I turn on the tv (if I'm home) and watch the service from Ottawa. I think the part that always gets me is the honouring of the Silver Cross Mother. That always makes me cry. It always has, and of course, now that I am a mother, it's a bazillion times worse. It used to be that the woman was extremely elderly - someone who'd lost a child in WWII or maybe Korea. But sadly, lately, it's been much younger mothers - mothers representing those lost in Afghanistan. And I hate that.

If you checked out my Halloween pics, you'll see my eldest son all done up as a sailor. Nice costume, right? Well, actually, that was my uniform - back in the day. In 1985 I joined the Naval Reserves, and that year also just happened to be the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Navy. So there were a lot of celebrations during this anniversary year, and one of the stunts the powers that be came up with, was to bring back the old-skool uniform for the band.

So we all got fitted - and they weren't "new" uniforms, done up like the old style, no no. They were the actual old uniforms. For reals. And they were itchy. And only designed for men. And there were a lot of parts - cap, dickie (shirt), tunic, collar, trousers, putties, lanyard... It was complicated! And this from a girl who is all about the accessories. But anyway...

The first time we put this monkey suit on, we were all "awww come on, hell noooo!" - monkey suit indeed - we all looked like organ grinder monkeys (do people even know about organ grinder monkeys these days? I don't know) - but off we went for the Remembrance Day parade. And it was cold. Fucking cold. And freezing rain. Now, when you wear the regular "new" uniform and it's snowing/raining/sleeting/cold you get to wear your overcoat. Nice and toasty. But, with the old uniform? There was no issued coat. No issued gloves. So you froze. And did I mention we were the band? So not only were we blue with cold, we also had to march and play our horns. Which were freezing up by the second. It was hell on earth.

Except that it wasn't. And I distinctly remember the moment I realized that it wasn't. We were standing at the cenotaph during the two minutes silence, waiting for the fly past, and I was trying to thaw the keys of my clarinet with my breath, and failing, and I was looking around the crowd gathered downtown. And I started checking out all the veterans, just standing there, heads bowed and blowing on their hands to keep them warm. And I remember thinking about what they did. And thinking, my god, some of them were probably exposed to weather like this for days on end in the North Atlantic. Long lonely stretches of freezing rain and wind and being torpedoed and trying to stay alive. And all of a sudden I remember thinking, I can do this fucking parade. It didn't make me any warmer, but that didn't matter. In 15 minutes I'd be marching off, back down to the armouries, and then getting my coat on and hopping into a car and heading back down to the base for lunch and a couple of good stiff drinks. Then I'd go home for a hot shower and a nap (I was a highschool student at the time after all). And get back to my normal life. The veterans who attended the ceremony, were they ever able to get back to their normal lives? What the fuck could be normal after what they'd seen? And the ones who didn't make it home. No "back to normal" for them or their families. Ever.

So seeing Charles decked out in the uniform was awesome - but it also felt a bit like a hit to the gut. Here's this kid who is so proud to be wearing his mum's old uniform - and wearing it very well, I might add. And all I can think is that I don't ever want to see him wearing one of those for real. What I would really like to see is no more war, and no more Silver Cross Mothers - ever. We need to tell our government. It's definitely time to stop.

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