donderdag 11 november 2010
Remembering With Poppies
P, A & I were able to sleep in on a Thursday and this together! Outside nature shows the first effects of colder temperatures. A & I now both love to warm up our beds with a cozzy warm cherry-pillow! P still is so brave to get fired up for a long run and takes along his MP3 player. The rest of the day we have not planned yet. A wishes to spend it with some friends or in a dark cinema theater. We shall see but we will have to go to the bakery to pick up some fresh croissants!
The last few days I asked my pupils in action why they will be granted an extra school- free day. It worries me sometimes that the younger generation 'will forget'! Especially when it comes down to historical facts. Looking at the average Belgian school curriculum that subject seems to have turned into a tiny footmark! I was kind of relieved to find out that my Juniors for sure know what 11.11 marks on a calendar.
Personal I am one of these people who very strongly believes in the importance of these days. And not only because I ended up with two college professors who were so into War Poetry. It takes more then a few lines of strong words to mark the deeper meaning of this day in your heart&mind.
This week P got all excited about the arrival of a certain Amazon package! The last few days he did spend in front of his computer screen, headphones plugged in and next to him the DVD-box of 'The Pacific'. We watched two episodes together and I must say that it is for sure this box belongs into P his personal war collection. In case you ever are granted a look atit you will notice that it breaths WAR!
P told me that he was one of these boys who liked to dress up as a soldier, build war headquarters, think tactics and force his younger siblings to enlist. In their back yard many wars were fought successfully. On top of that he had tons of those plastic soldiers (think Toy Story) who got engaged into many fantastic battles that were fought in his bedroom. I have seen the sparkle in his eyes when he talks about these memories.
Guess that globally many 'real' (uhm) men have got to tell some 'war'-stories that were fought at the homefront. And that in those cases most of the time the number of casualties was rather superficial. I am even tempted to call it a fixed ingredient of growing into men!
But... WAR it can not engage me into a cheerfull conversations or make my eyes sparkle. I have visted many places were the leftovers from an act of war are still to be witnessed. The first time that my dad dragged us children to the Ardennes and made us stare at the many rows of white crosses was a day that I won't easily forget. He repeated that act over and over. When we visited Normandy he made sure that we learned all the names of the beaches. He also pointed out many times that war did for sure changed the soil on which we walk. That those crosses mark more then just a grave of an other soldier.
In my own family the War (the 2nd WW) knocked also on the door. My grandfather, a Belgian solidier, was a POW during the second World War and my uncle joined up with the Royal Navy (he still wears this blue uniform with dignity and pride) at the time. My dad was about six when German soldiers bursted into their house. They seemed to be searching for British soldiers who were hiding out in the neighbourhood. But it turned out that one of them was just looking for the loo! My dad even remembered very vividly the first green colored bottle of Coco Cola brought along by the American troops!
Two words all of these men used/use always with a lot of reverence were/are the words FREEDOM & PEACE. Every time I was sitting in history class, when reading a poem or book, watching a movie about war they are there with me! In the eyes of many are wars fought for a cause! These acts of destruction seem to be justified! The casualties and sacrifices that were made were 'worthwhile'!
Still I am lost at words when I standing somewhere where the memories of war are revoked! The white crosses, the many gigantic war monuments that I have taken pictures never produced smiles. In most cases they made me feel 'small' and out of place. Even when I read a book covering War then I still seem to have the impression that not a single a word will be good enough to cover the impact of such a thing as war.
Listening to the 'Last Post' in Ypres (today there will be leafs of poppies falling out of the sky while standing underneath the Menengate), the poppies that pop up all over on the BBC around this date, the grey weather and the falling leaves, the growing DVD-collection of P, the pictures of 'great' war monuments I have taken all around the world, my family history, the grave of my grandfather (considered a military grave), the documentaries I get to see on TV it all enables me to remember! AND NEVER FORGET!
Modern Wars are perhaps fought differently but in a sense the effects are the same. In not a single war there are winners because at a certain moment who all tend to loose our dignity and pride. Principles and values are put to the ultimate test. It is then humans are forced to chose between 'right' and 'wrong'! Knowing that there is in most of these situations not such a thing.
It were my two beloved men who pointed out today for sure what this date stands for:
- P:'You know it must have been like hell out there! The war in the Pacific was so different compared to what was going in Normandy or in the Ardennes! Some soldiers called London and Paris at wartime a city trip when they met the guys who fought against the Japanese! You know if you come to think of it we are never grateful enough! People died out there, people so far away from home and some of their lives got ruined because of this. It was so much more then Lucky Strikes and Coca Cola they brought along.'
- A while watching the Children's channel:'Hey, mum, it the day that they put down the weapons! Can we go and watch them do that?'
Uhm, I guess that one of my private soldiers has grown up and that the other one still has a long way to go. But when I come to think it must be rather a strange and at the same time special moment to witness! The exact moment that a war is called to an end and that the weapons are silenced and that a soldier can put down his guard (weapon) and re-embrace what he/she ached for while being out there!
War is so hard to get your head around but what I truely do now wish to do is not forget about it that it ever happened. It happened just around the corner and it goes on just a few countries away. All of this justifies for sure a day to remember all those people that went/go the distance and put everything at stake they stood/stand for!
I am at lost for words and therefor I rather use the words of a Canadian soldier, doctor and poet, John McCrae, who was sure far way from home when he composed this wold famous War poem! One glance at poppies that is all it takes to take me there and remember!
PS: Boston Times Big Picture brought once more the 'best' images together so that we will never forget!
Veterans Day 2010 - The Big Picture - Boston.com