There will be no mail on Monday.
Some will ponder why when they open the empty box. It’s Memorial Day, a paid federal holiday for some, but just another day in the work trenches for others.
It’s an easy one to forget, despite the picnics in the parks where bluish smoke of barbecues hangs thick in the air like the residue of some battle.
And notwithstanding a passing parade or two with gatherings of old war veterans and the young still in service, many people don’t stop to consider why the mail doesn’t come.
But not everyone.
On a clear day a few years ago in a not too distant May, the receding ocean tide on the French Normandy Coast left a broad swath of reddish sand in folds and ripples upon Omaha Beach.
They almost look like those patterns in the human mind, where memories lie.
All is peaceful. Skies are blue. Long-stemmed wild yellow flowers roll and dance in the cool sea breeze, pushing up the slopes to the plateau above.
It is not like the morning of D-Day, June 6, 1944, when thousands of young Americans came to this spot. Many died under a hailstorm of German bullets trying to crack the Nazi Atlantic Wall. But crack it they did, pouring through all the way to Hitler’s doorstep, bleeding and dying the whole way to free the world from the grip of madmen.
It’s now an easy climb to the top along steps and boardwalks. The bluff is crowned with a graveyard for many of those who died on the beach and in the subsequent battlefields and are now at their final parade rest.
It is a pastoral scene of limited colors. Very green, neatly trimmed grass, sprouting rows of short, stark white crosses mingled with Stars of David. And of course there is some red, white and blue thrown in, fluttering in the light wind.
Taking a slow walk on this day amid the markers is 80-year-old Margaret Miller, my mother-in-law. She is looking for a name, and closure.
Once, a very long time ago, there was a boy named George who went to war.
She was 15 and he was just a pen pal, really. A family friend from Rayne, Louisiana, who would come down to visit folks in Jeanerette.
She promised to write him, as others did, to fill up the mail call after he shipped out to fight in Europe. And so she wrote, and he wrote back, until his letters stopped coming.
The word from Rayne was he had died on some piece of contested turf. He was buried in one of the military cemeteries in Europe.
Time goes on. Thoughts and memories recede into those folds to sleep.
On this vacation stopover, though, as Margaret wanders among the graves, she wonders what might have happened. Is this where he ended up? It would be so much easier to find him if she could just remember his last name exactly.
Like I said, it’s been a long while and there are times when forgetting is just as painful as remembering. So she hopes for bon chance on this day on French soil.
A lucky crossing of paths to ease her mind. Maybe, just maybe, a name on a cross will pique her memory. But it doesn’t happen. And so she remembers a war and its cost and a boy, in her own way.
Back home in America, the mail won’t come on Monday.
This is one reason why.
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