Centenary Remembrance is a Teacher
By Bonnie J. Toomey
During her commute my daughter paused to wonder about the row on row of bright, red flowers in the center of a bustling suburb she drives through weekly.
Her amazement at the sight of it carried clearly in her voice on the wave of Bluetooth technology. I sensed a kind of slowing down from the bustle of her own life, a young life filled with promise and the responsibilities of work and the mothering of two young sons sitting in their classrooms back in Lunenburg. I could almost see as her eyes gathered in what appeared to her to be hundreds of hand-made blooms, knit and felted and standing proudly over the grass.
“Wow, mom, poppies are everywhere,” Her voice trailed off for a few seconds as she made her way through the center of Carlisle. Later, I would send her a poem representative of the reason for those poppies.
With Veteran’s Day on the horizon, the image of that New England town square donned in hand-made poppies, each planted in honor of those who served, many who lost their lives, brought to memory the navy blue buttonhole on my dad’s suit jacket pierced with blood-red petals of paper mache affixed to a wiry stem.
The image for me evokes the toll of bells.
Each year he wore the poppy remembrance, sometimes to church, and of course, when Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day arrived. I don’t know for sure, but perhaps the corsage was made by courageous members of the local American Legion Auxillary Post. It would rest on its side atop his dresser amongst his cuff links and tie pins until it was called into service.
Growing up we had a brass eagle above the front door and every night I’d help dad take the flag in after supper. Between us the flag would stretch as he carefully folded and in measured step closing the gap until we held a thick triangle of cloth together. As a child of a veteran of The Korean War, I would grow to recognize the iconic bloom as a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice made by many American soldiers, sailors, aviators and marines.
On that gray morning my daughter marveled at the display of remembrance as she described a circle of lawn covered in yarned flowers, growing skyward in the rain. She rounded the rotary slowly, taking in the rows upon rows of what we’d later learn is thousands of poppies, a volunteer effort by townspeople both young and old, a swath of crimson which flowed upward and across the hillside of a nearby church.
“There’s a poem I’m sending along for you and the boys,” I said, adding, “share it with them tonight.” The next day I’d chat with a friend in town about it at our local cafe and I’d learn that her father had also worn a poppy on his lapel.
Though my daughter instinctively knew the display was a reference to a special remembrance of a war long ago, she wasn’t sure until she noted the sign observing July 28, 1914- Nov. 11, 1918 commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I and honoring those who gave their service and their lives during the deadliest war we’ve ever seen.
To learn more about the Poppy Project visit https://carlislepoppyproject.weebly.com/
The poppy is a symbol of sacrifice. Buy one this week if you get the chance or make one and put it on your lawn, your front porch or in a window for all to see. Tell your child what the poppy signifies. In 1915 a young Canadian doctor wrote this tome as he mourned the loss of a fellow soldier.
To learn more visit https://www.alaforveterans.org/Poppy/
World War I was one of the most devastating in history, claiming millions and millions of lives. In our towns it’s not hard to find memorials etched with the memory of service and sacrifice by those who have fought for this nation from its inception. Pause for a moment when you see one. Read the names to your child.
We must always remember that history is our greatest teacher. We must never forget.
Bonnie J. Toomey teaches at Plymouth State University, writes about writing, learning, and life in the 21st century. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org , follow her on Parent Forward on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bonniejtoomey . Learn more at bonniejtoomey.com