I suppose it is normal to compare your childhood with your children’s. There is so much of my life that I remember when I was Franklin’s age. Grade 2 must have been a big year for me. I remember it was the year I learned to read – as in read for myself. That was the year I read (and barely understood) “Black Like Me” leaving a large impression on my grade school mind.
Another thing I remember was trying so hard to feel something on Remembrance Day. When I was 7 years old, Remembrance Day seemed to be more of a way to pat ourselves on the back and say, as Canadians, “We aren’t fighting any wars. We’re PeaceKeepers. We’re Peaceful. We’re totally awesome, unlike… you know… whoever else has wars – unlike us.”
I always thought this was a little strange. Everyone knew about the war in the Middle East, right? What about the Cold War? Well, Canadians aren’t apart of those wars, silly. We’re peaceful.
So Remembrance Day was for the “old people”. I watched “old people” at the ceremonies wearing their uniforms and tried to be appreciative but honestly, I think the whole PeaceKeeping thing was shoved down our throats so much that I looked at them with pity. Their’s was a time when clearly, people couldn’t keep their tempers in check.
I’m not proud.
I was 7 years old.
Now that Franklin is in Grade 2, I found it interesting to talk to him about his Remembrance Day ceremony at school. I asked them what they did, if there was a trumpet and what he liked about it (my favourite part when I was his age was the trumpet) and what he thought about during the moment of silence.
I’ve learned by this point that when you want to ask a child about their day, your don’t ask “yes” or “no” questions. You ask questions that require a sentence answer and if you’re lucky it doesn’t consist of a mere “I don’t know”. For Franklin, when it comes to Remembrance Day, there was very little shrugging and don’t know-ing. We were sitting in a coffee shop this morning and he told me all about how Remembrance Day isn’t about the First World War or the Second World War anymore. It’s also about Afghanistan.
Wait a minute! It is!
He went on to tell me about how someone’s Mom at his school is in Afghanistan right now, “telling the soldiers where to set up camp”. He also described a slide show they watched and assured me that although there were soldiers, “they weren’t shooting guns in the pictures”. He said there were a lot Canadians and other people who are dying in wars everywhere around the world and that when the assembly was quiet, he thought about how there was no wars in Victoria but there were wars in other places where kids were going to school and how that would be scary.
I was impressed. I also fancy my son’s amazing ability to tell a good story as the woman doing the crossword puzzle next to us had put it down to hear him speak – with all his “totally” and “whoa” and “so awesome” vocabulary.
This year was the first time France and Germany remembered together in Paris since World War I ended. Why now? Because earlier this year, the last French veteran from that war died. I used to think, like many people, that once the veterans from the two World Wars died, Remembrance Day would stop being the large ceremony that it is now. I believe that there was a time when the numbers were starting to dwindle and fewer and fewer people were attending the marches. I don’t think that’s happening now.
I’m sad that wars are continuing to add more people to the list to be remembered but I’m also happy that those “old people” that my 7 year old self saw while standing in the rain, wearing my freshly ironed Brownie uniform and wondering when the canons would finally stop, will not be forgotten.