Happy Veterans Day, Dad!

flag-mini-American My father is a veteran of World War II. I’m glad he made it through the war, met my mom, got married, and had ten kids (of which I’m the tenth, so ... ) And I’m glad he’s still alive and kicking!
PFC Stuart A
While I was growing up, I was vaguely aware that dad had been in that war, but never knew
how he'd been in it because he didn’t really talk about it. Then, when my son did a grade school report about his grandfather, I started learning heretofore unknown facts about my dad -- for instance, he was in the Junior ROTC during high school, and he appears in uniform in his senior year picture (someday I'll have a scan of that); in addition to playing the guitar with a military ensemble over in France (or Germany?), he played the mellophone; although I don’t think he participated in direct combat, he did the scary work of clearing anti-tank mines; and when the war ended he performed occupation service in Germany (or possibly France). Dad has interesting stories of his time in Europe during the War, and he remembers some of those times with a good deal of warmth. If he experienced anything grim, a la Saving Private Ryan, he is not dwelling on it publicly. I greatly enjoy hearing him reminisce, and hope to document some of his memories in the near future.

Veterans Day was originally meant to honor those who served in World War I, it now honors soldiers from all wars, including Dear Old Dad. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919 -- one year after the armistice was signed between the allied nations and Germany, effectively ending “the war to end all wars.” (The war formally ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.) In 1938, November 11 became a legal holiday -- "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." Then in 1953, a shoe store owner in Emporia (isn’t that a great name for a town!), Kansas named Al King started a campaign to turn Armistice Day into "All" Veterans Day. A year later President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law, “Armistice” was replaced with “Veterans,” and it’s been Veterans Day ever since, with some controversy over whether and where to put an apostrophe. (Formally, there is no apostrophe.)

Starting in 1971, according to the
Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Day was scheduled on the fourth Monday in October, in keeping with President Lyndon Johnson's “Uniform Holiday Bill." The bill promoted 3-day holiday weekends for government workers, and enabled them to travel and "and see more of this beautiful land of ours." The change caused confusion and was short-lived -- Veterans Day was changed back to November 11 in 1978 and has been celebrated on this date -- as it is in many countries, where it is known variously as Remembrance Day, Poppy Day, Armistice Day, and Veterans Day -- ever since.

I'm sure dad has a flag flying in front of his house 300 miles from my own, as it always hung in front of our childhood home on similarly patriotic holidays. I've prompted him to look for his Army of Occupation medal and dig out that high school ROTC photo. Perhaps he's doing some reminiscing about his service overseas during World War II on this day. However he is spending it, I'm grateful he lived through it and can pass the remembrances on to his many children. Dad, I salute you on this Veterans Day for your good service to the country!

Happy Halloween!

This post is definitely rushed. Something more thoughtful to come in the very near future!

Autumn has absolutely bewitched me these past few weeks -- between the trees abloom in their gorgeous reds, rusts, oranges and golds, and the refreshing chill in the air, I've been wishing I could quit my job and somehow get paid just to walk the streets for hours appreciating each beautiful fall day.
red maple
A beautiful maple tree just down the street.

These colorful days also bring the promise of my favorite holiday: Halloween! Well, perhaps Halloween is tied evenly with Christmas and Valentine’s day, all of which are joyful, colorful and fun, were favorites of the Victorians, and involve chocolate. I love Halloween for the costumed trick-or-treaters who roam the neighborhood and pile up at our door with their goody bags waiting for treats, for orange candlelit pumpkins and strings of skull lights glowing in the dark, for bats and ravens, witches, tombstones and grim reapers.
five punkins
We carved six punkins this year! The sixth is perched out of sight on the mantel with a spooky crow. From left to right, the carvers were: Kinnin, Meg, Emilia, Sean, Kenny.
scary punkin crow
Nevermore! Bit blurry, but you get the idea. Kinnin did this one.

Not only is Halloween spooky by design, with its imagery of ghosts and spirits, but this time of year possesses a natural eerieness that my pre-Christian ancestors tuned into long before the holiday evolved into the festive event that we know. The Celtic celebration called Samhain (SOW-in) “is a special time of year and a powerful time for divination," according to Lisa Finander, an editor at Llewellyn.com, “when the veil between the world of the living and the dead is the thinnest, and a time when the communication between these worlds is the strongest.” At Samhain, which literally means “end of summer,” the ancient Celts acknowledged and honored the dead while they marked the end of the seasonal cycle with bonfires and ushered in their new year. Like many Celtic/pagan celebrations, Samhain was co-opted by Christians and turned into the eve of All Hallows or All Saints Day, and All Hallows Evening became Hallowe’en.

The Victorians expanded on the theme of divination and and promoted Halloween rituals -- such as looking in a mirror or eating apples -- as a means for determining one’s romantic fate. Halloween also became yet another opportunity for exchanging their famously whimsical postcards!
"He is your fate ... who's face you've seen ... in the mirror's face ... on Halloween."

"The fates tell by the cards your future destiny ... but if you share an apple
with a heart that's fancy free ... on Halloween at midnight a marriage it will be."

Although All Hallows Eve has already passed, you can still light candles in memory of friends, family members and loyal pets who’ve crossed to the other side of the veil, or to divine your future lover in the lookingglass. The moon is full right now, so go outside and enjoy the calm blue glow it is casting over the clouds and leaf-bare trees on this cool, crisp (in our corner of the midwest, anyway) All Saints night. Maybe you’ll sense something else in the air, too! I hope you had a Happy Samhain/Halloween, and are enjoying the fall colors wherever you are.

Please feel free to leave a comment -- how did you celebrate Halloween this year, or did you celebrate at all? How do you feel during this naturally mysterious time of the season? Share your favorite ways of passing time during these chilly, darkening days of autumn. Or feel free to correct any misinformation you've read above. Anything ... I'd love to hear from you!