The Memorial Day dance

The Memorial Day dance

This is a complicated time of year in a complicated year.

This weekend is Memorial Day. Sunday is Lag B’Omer.

Both of these holidays are intricate dances between mourning and celebration.

Memorial Day is meant to honor the service members who have died protecting the United States.

It’s also the unofficial first day of summer, and the first weekend to barbecue seriously, and to eat outside. (An act that has taken on a different meaning since the pandemic, when it meant not springtime but at least the chance to share a meal, even if we were shivering under blankets. But that was then.) It’s about the deep green of gardens, now that the trees no longer have flowers but instead are bursting with leaves that are still new enough to be dark. They’re still months away from the too-much-sun-and-not-enough-rain dog-day look that signals that Labor Day is on its way.

Most of us Americans alive now are lucky. We haven’t had to live through the war deaths of people we love. Instead, we go outside and revel in the beauty (and often gorge on the food).

Israel, a much newer country, has dealt with this dichotomy by having Yom Ha’Zikaron, remembrance day, shift dramatically into Yom Ha’Atzmaut, independence day. That happened just last week. These days don’t exactly mirror each other — the Fourth of July, probably the closest analog, is more than a month away — but it’s close.

It’s hard to mourn people you never knew, especially in the height of springtime, but if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here. That’s a simple truth, and worth holding on to.

Lag b’Omer, the holiday that marks the 33rd day since the second seder, closer to Shavuot, where the omer brings us, than to Pesach, is also a day of celebration, a break and an easing of the days of semi-mourning that lead up to it.

And it’s also in springtime.

It all comes back to the demanding gavotte that we’re threading through here and now — the world is falling apart, Hamas still exists, the hostages still are not free, the Middle East still is on edge, Ukraine still is fighting, Putin still is threatening, and democracy itself still is under attack. We don’t need any new fires for Lag B’Omer because the world is aflame.

Also it’s springtime, also what that is on the grill smells scrumptious, the sky’s gorgeous, the dogs are having fun, and what?

Me worry?

Life really is complicated, isn’t it?


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