Sunday, November 13, 2005

Toasting the Veterans

So, last Friday we were sitting at the Big Buck Brewery in Auburn Hills Michigan, several servings of high octane, micro-brewed suds in the bag, when the subject of Veterans Day came up. Scott, a former colleague of mine from Canada asked me, since I had started working on the other side of the border, if I had taken to wearing the little red poppy on my jacket yet on the days leading up to the holiday known as “Remembrance Day” in the land of the maple leaf. I said that I had not and asked him what the story was behind the poppy, which has been all over the place in Windsor over the past couple of weeks. He informed me that it went back to a World War I battle in France, where the Canadian army had suffered tremendous losses in an area that was overgrown with these little red poppies. The suffering there inspired a poem about the poppies that became quite popular and since then, this little poppy had become the symbol of Veteran’s Day in Canada.

As he finished up his explanation, another former colleague of mine, an American who is significantly older than the two of us said, “It was ‘Flanders Fields’.” He then went on to recite it:

“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

‘We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

‘Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

I had to admit, I found it rather touching and asked him where he had learned it.

“We were taught it in elementary school back in the early 1960s.” he answered. “It’s strange how something you learned when you were just nine or ten years old makes such an impression on you that, almost half a century later, you can still recall it almost half a century later just as vividly as the day you heard it for the very first time.”

I know where he’s coming from. I first heard the disco anthem “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey when I was eight years old and, twenty-seven years later, I can still sing it all the way through though, thank God, I don’t think I have ever heard it again since.


Anonymous Fade_to_Blah said...

Hi Jep !

9:55 AM  
Blogger JEP said...

Hey Blah! How's it been going lately?

6:05 PM  
Anonymous LoB said...

That poem is quite beautiful. I had heard the name Flanders Fields several times before but had no idea where it came from. Silly americans and your holidays.
I've always had a pretty good memory, so the recalling-things-from-years-ago is particularly true for me. It's funny how the mind keeps these small details. One thing I wish I could recall which I don't is most of last Saturday night. Memory loss had never happened to me. I got shitfaced drunk on beer, vodka and shots, was almost thrown out of a club and, as I got myself home and was walking across the frontyard, fell headfirst into the gravel, leaving me with a huge gash just next to my eye which makes me look like I went around getting into fistfights. Good times.

4:14 PM  

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