just ponderin'

… on saying thank you

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Morning Pride

I was looking through some papers the other day and came across something I’d written in 2005.

I’d written it for a friend’s local on-line newspaper. Kathy Icenogle (who has as fun a last name as ‘Dingle’ as far as I am concerned) had started this ‘paper’ – called “Dunstable Commons” and, after a few discussions, I was an instant columnist! Which –  if you have paid attention to how I became a Wicked Professional Photographer – instantly made me a Wicked Professional Writer (albeit with benefits like having breakfast with my friend Kathy at Dream Diner, rather than Stephen King calling for tips (which will prob happen any day now, and if it happens while I’m talking here I’ll have to take the call).

The column I came across was written on February 12, 2005 at 2 a.m. (and I don’t know why it was created at 2 a.m., but I was not up late due to a New York literary event (I don’t think)).

It hit me that it is as relevant today as it was then.  I edited it a bit (believe it or not, I was even more long-winded then. And I can’t remember if I’ve ever told you this Sam story before. Forgive me if I have).

The only thing you need to know is that my beloved New England Patriots (I know, I know…) had just won the Super Bowl.

Here you go:

I’m a Patriot.

No, I don’t play wide receiver for our proud dynasty (say it with me – “Dy-Na-Sty” (wahoo!))

I’m just your run of the mill, pride in our country and our people and history and founding principles patriot.

Which is why, when I was watching our football team play in the Super Bowl, I – along with about 90 million of my fellow Americans – went silent during one specific commercial.

If you watched the game – or even the post-game advertising analysis – you probably saw it.

The scene opens, and we are in a relatively quiet and calm airport terminal.

People are milling about, getting on with their busy morning – buying newspapers, getting coffee, checking flight information, and then…

And then someone, somewhere, begins to clap.

Just one person.

Clapping.

And then another joins in.

And then another.

And more.

Soon, many people are clapping, and the camera pans over to what prompted this reaction.

Soldiers.

Men, women.

Young, not so young.

In desert cammies, holding duffles.

Shyly smiling.

Or looking straight ahead.

Or beaming with all out pride.

If your Super Bowl gathering was anything like mine, your friends and family stopped for that one.

And at the end, when all was said and done, the words ‘thank you’, in white, faded up onto the a black screen.

In my house, there was no move toward cynicism or politics.

No ‘buts’.

A few dabs of a few eyes.

A swipe at a tear here and there.

In our daily lives, it is sometimes easy to forget – or should I say, sometimes hard to really appreciate, that we have soldiers in harm’s way, on our behalf, right now.

It’s even easier, sometimes, to overlook the fact that we see soldiers every single day.

Men and women who served, and fought, for us and for our country, but whose job is done.

They’re not so hard to find.  Just look a little closer.

A veteran’s license plate.

That baseball cap, still worn each day, with their unit’s insignia.

The old tattoo.

And I always thought it was important to teach my kids about these signs, and to know what to do when they see them.

In my house, when the kids were little, we kept it simple. Even the most complex concepts can be broken down to the basics. And, in these cases, it comes down to manners.

When someone does something nice for you, you say ‘thank you’.

In May, 1998, we went over to Hudson, New Hampshire to enjoy the Memorial Day parade and to see our nieces and nephew march with the Girl and Boy Scouts. It was the first Memorial Day parade where our son, Sam (who had just turned four) was hanging out with the ‘big kids’, right next to the parade route, while we stood a short distance behind (well, I actually sat, being eight months pregnant at the time (oy)).

The fire trucks rolled by and Sam looked back at us, with a huge smile on his face, to make sure we had seen them.

The band and cheerleaders went by and my happy, chubby little boy danced to the beat.

The Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops went by and we all got a little closer to take pictures as Sam waved, with gusto, to his cousins.

And then came the soldiers.

They were, as they always are, resplendent in their dress uniforms.

Their awards and adornments shining, worn proudly.

I am always stunned silent when I see them.

I wonder where they served, and what they saw.

We began to clap as soon as they came into view, and the clapping went on, loudly and with whoops and whistles, as they approached where we were standing.

And then Sam took a few steps away from the ‘big kids’, into the road, toward the marching soldiers.

I managed to stand up, intending to go get my ‘wandering child’, taking a few steps forward to reach the edge of the sidewalk.

Sam had stopped and planted himself in place.

He was leaning toward the soldiers and had his hand cupped around his mouth. With all the noise and the band and the clapping, I couldn’t hear what he was yelling until I got closer.

He was yelling, ‘Thank you!” at the top of his four-year-old lungs.

He just kept yelling it at all the soldiers who passed by.

Some smiled shyly.

Some looked straight ahead.

Some beamed with all out pride.

And one – one I will never forget – slowed down just enough to pat Sam on the head.

“You’re welcome, little buddy.”

And then he rejoined the parade and I never saw him again.

But I did see Sam.

Beaming, all out pride sparkling in little boy eyes.

It’s hard sometimes, to reconcile the concepts of freedom and liberty and humanity and conservatism and liberalism and politics and living and dying.

Opposing views, accusations, contradictory opinions and actions and, well, we all get it.

It’s not simple.

But…

At the same time, it is very simple.

When someone does something nice for you, you say ‘thank you’.

So…

Thank you, to all who serve and have served.

Thank you very much.

And thanks for readin’.

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