As many of you know, Memorial Day is my second favorite holiday of the year. (Christmas wins. Obviously.)
What you may not know is why I love it.
To me, Memorial Day celebrates not only our amazing veterans and soldiers protecting our country and freedoms, it celebrates HOME.
For years, it was the one day when we would flood the Ashland house with everyone we knew – lining up tables, borrowing the orange coolers from church and cleaning out the garage in case of rain. We filled shopping carts with hot dog buns and mixed lemonade powder with cold water from the hose.
For 20 years, Memorial Day meant a BBQ for over 200 people at my house. Joy.
It wasn’t about the endless watermelon slices or catching candy from the parade (the good old days, amiright??) – it was about the freedom to gather. The freedom to rest. The freedom to be together.
It was all my people in my place.
And so it’s no surprise that I hate being away from River Forest on this day. But more than that, I hate being away from my people.
I did my best to celebrate (and thankfully Austria made it relatively easy!). I ate grillwurst sausage in lieu of – and honestly way better than – a hotdog. Apple strudel instead of apple pie. The opera instead of a parade (ok, this one was a stretch…).
I had an awesome day.
But I wasn’t home and I wasn’t with my people. So it wasn’t a true Memorial Day celebration.
So I tried to compensate by scrolling through American flag images flooding my Instagram and newsfeed. And in so doing, I came to some conclusions on my thoughts on America these days. And here is what I’ve come to realize:
The common phrase on a day like today would be to say that I’m be proud to be an American. And in many, many ways, I am. But that sentiment is complicated. Because I’m not proud of our ethnocentricity. I’m not proud of our superiority complex. I’m not proud of our collective ignorance about the rest of the world.
I think a way more accurate statement is this:
I am overwhelming grateful to be an American.
I’m grateful for the opportunities I have had simply because I was born in the USA. I’m thankful for a high-quality education, paved roads, relatively successful checks and balances on corruption, fully-stocked grocery stores and readily-available healthcare. I’m grateful to have a voice that isn’t silenced, a right to form my own opinions and a democracy that, while filled with it’s own craziness, allows us to vote and speak and change.
I’m thankful that my American passport lets me easily enter almost every single country on this planet without having to think twice. I’m grateful that it took only one week (and zero appointments or interviews) to get all the visas I needed for this whole trip of mine. I’m amazed that, because I’m an American, I can see the world.
Our country is amazing. And we are incredibly lucky to have both Freedom (capital F) and countless freedoms (small f) available to us each and every day.
It’s not perfect (it’s oh so far from perfect). But it’s wonderful. And it’s home.
And for that, I’m the most grateful of all.
Happy Memorial Day.