Thursday, May 25, 2017

Roadside Poppies on Memorial Day and, this weekend, The Whole World at Once

The only veteran in my family is my mother's father, who served in WWII and so was absent the first several years of my mother's childhood, and then a stranger when he returned. But so handsome, she says when she remembers meeting him, to her for the first time outside of the letters her mother read aloud from. I grew up in a town of veterans because I grew up in a rural town, and there are four typical directions for life after high school: the factory, the family farm, college, or the military.

Poppies via
What I remember about Memorial Day when I was a child was stopping at the one lighted
intersection downtown, and the men selling fabric poppies with small slips of paper wrapped around their metal stems. Sometimes my mother reached out the driver's side window and bought one, more often she didn't, because I remember wanting one but not receiving.

The other memory I have of Memorial Day, and this one, I don't know how accurate it is because it happens at every cemetery where I've lived near, is how the cemetery came to life on that day, with the small American flags on wooden sticks, the styrofoam wreaths of red fabric carnations erected on green wire stands that sold out of that one aisle in Ardnt's General Store. And then, after that day, the memorials stayed a little longer before I would find pieces of them, and other similar offerings, later that year or another year, faded and blown to the back of the cemetery or in the ditches.

When I was contacting bookstores about readings for The Whole World at Once, I didn't use a physical calendar that has MEMORIAL DAY blocked out in clear lettering. I must have referred to my phone calendar. Because I scheduled not only one reading, but also two readings for Memorial Day weekend, which for many people, is a weekend to celebrate the promise of late Spring becoming early Summer. Boats on lakes. Bags of charcoal emptied into park BBQs. Plastic tablecloths and plastic tubs of potato salad and baked beans. Sunburns. Family. Somewhere, a parade. And, for many, the quiet moments of choosing the wreath of carnations from the local general store or, more likely, an aisle in a superstore, before driving to the cemetery and sitting in the grass with memories.

Attending a book reading? Not typically on the list of Memorial Day must-do items.

But I will be reading stories in two bookstores in Western Washington, and I hope that you can take an hour to come listen. I'll be reading an excerpt from the story, This Bomb My Heart, which follows the lives of a sister, and her brother who returns after multiple tours of war to plant and dig up landmines in the backyard of the farmhouse where they grew up. I'll also read the full story, The Boy in the Red Shirt, which was motivated by the photograph of the Syrian boy, and all the people, who have been washing up on distant beaches since people have been evacuating Syria.

So, if you want a break from the BBQs and your family or the silence of living alone, or whatever the circumstances of your life, bring your life to the bookstore, and I'll read to you. Here is where I will be so you can find me:

Saturday, May 27: Lake Forest Park, WA
6:30 PM/Reading and Signing
Third Place Books (17171 Bothell Way NE) 

Sunday, May 28: Tacoma, WA
7 PM/Reading and Signing

Should you find someone selling poppies on your way to the bookstore, please bring one for me.