Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Remembering Remembrance Day

Originally posted on Multiply, November 11 2009

My brain is crowded with thoughts about the politics of war and peace, the military-industrial complex, the sad historical realities of geo-politics such as the Great Game, the virtues and vices of soldiers and those who would control them.

The rants and ruminations connected to that will have to wait for another time. Today we are keeping it simple.

Today we just shake the hand of the old veteran who stands on the corner by the local Supermarket, hand him a twenty for a poppy, and make it a point to thank him personally for the liberation, once again. (actually that was Monday)

I was a toddler at the time and do not remember the liberation of Holland by Canadian soldiers in May 1945. But the memories of both occupation and liberation were still vivid in those early years. Since the Netherlands had managed to stay out of WW1 the whole November 11 thing did not play there. Remembering the dead took place the evening before Liberation day, May 5.

On May 4th at 8 PM two minutes of silence would be observed religiously all over the country. My parents would listen to the radio for the bugle that sounded at Dam square in Amsterdam at 8PM sharp. Even as small children in our own home we were totally quiet for those sacred minutes.

Later when I was out and about on a bicycle I remember standing still, in traffic, for what seemed to be forever.
At that time of day, at that latitude, the streetlights were not on yet. They would come on at 8PM to give the signal that it was time for traffic to stop. And it did. Trams were exempt, but otherwise all you heard for 2 long minutes was the evening chorus of birds.

A tram in the distance. Silence. Birdsong. Suddenly you smell the spring in the heart of a busy city. That's remembrance.

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