As Memorial Day weekend approached, I was torn on how to broach the subject with Little Bear. Memorial Day stands as a tribute to the countless men and women who have laid down their lives in service to our country. But death and war are tough topics even for adults, much less a not-quite-four-year-old. At the same time, I didn’t want to bypass the heart of the holiday and portray as nothing more than the unofficial start of summer vacation.
In the end, we talked about freedom. We talked about some of the freedoms we enjoy that people elsewhere in the world do not. And we talked about the price of freedom — how our freedoms to live, work, and worship were purchased through the struggles and sacrifices of previous generations and how it’s our duty to preserve these same freedoms for the next generation.
I looked long and hard for resources to help explain the significance of Memorial Day to Little Bear, only to discover that Memorial Day seems to be largely forgotten by publishers of early childhood and elementary resource books. One American publisher (who shall remain nameless) dedicated 19 pages of their May resource book to May Day, 9 pages to Cinco de Mayo, and 11 pages to Mother’s Day, but didn’t even mention Memorial Day. In the end, I turned to What Is Memorial Day?, a simple introduction I’d prepared for my ESL students a few years ago.
As Little Bear and I talked, I felt like I was walking a tightrope, trying to present factual information without overwhelming her with facts. In the end, she concluded that Memorial Day was both a “sad” day as we remembered America’s fallen soldiers and a “happy” day as we celebrated and enjoyed the freedoms they secured for us.
And celebrate we did!
We played frisbee, played baseball (or something akin to it), went swimming, had a picnic, played in the sand, and simply enjoyed spending time with each other and with friends.