Memorial Day weekend always holds a lot of memories for me. In high school, I played in the marching band’s drum line, and we always had two parades this weekend, one for each of the towns in our school district. Our star trumpet player who performed taps during both Memorial Day ceremonies joined the army after high school and was killed while serving. Now high school trumpeters play taps in memory of him.
I no longer go to the Memorial Day parades. All of the family members I have who served came home (at least the ones who lived during my lifetime), and so I don’t really feel like I belong there. I know that doesn’t really matter, but it feels odd to stand next to someone who’s mourning a loss that I can’t fully comprehend. So I stay away.
But Memorial Day holds other memories for me besides marching band. Growing up, it was the weekend of our first family cookout of the summer. Nothing elaborate, just my parents and grandparents and me. It was a day spent planting the vegetable garden before grilling hamburgers in the evening and watching the stars come out.
Later on, I also received invitations to my best friend’s Memorial Day weekend cookouts. His birthday falls close to Memorial Day, and so his family would throw him a party that doubled as a family reunion too. My friend and I always referred to each other as siblings. Our rivalry in high school was legendary and even when we were fighting, we were inseparable. So yes, I became part of his family and he is part of mine. (“Family don’t end with blood,” was a lesson I learned long before Bobby Singer – played by Jim Beaver – uttered the line on Supernatural.) Our friendship lasted through college, and he’s still my best friend today. Now he throws the cookout parties at his new house across the border in Ohio.
Even though we don’t see each other that often now, he still knows me better than nearly everyone else in my life today. And that has been true for years. During college he knew better than to invite me to parties with our peers, because such gatherings would spark my issues with depression and loneliness in the following days. So we spent numerous evenings going out to eat and seeing movies by ourselves. Plenty of people thought we were dating, including my grandmother, and our mischievous streak would spur us into adding fuel to the misconception. We had a lot of fun telling strangers stories about our non-existent kids, wedding, and honeymoon.
He was the only person I wanted to talk to when 2016 (The Journey to Here) roiled out its list of sorrows. Even though neither of us had time to meet in person, we still spent hours on the phone and on Messenger talking. We’ve helped each other get through many things over the years, including frustrations with parents and jobs, disappointments with society and people, and the deaths of friends and family.
I hope everyone has a friend like this sometime during their life. Someone who knows you and your family deeply but can give a valuable outside perspective when necessary. Someone who knows when you need to have fun and when it’s time to be serious. Someone who can be the long lost sibling you never knew you wanted until you discover that you absolutely need them.