Adriana Zoder: A few thoughts on Memorial Day

May. 29, 2014 @ 04:50 PM

The week before Memorial Day weekend, we received a letter from a company we do business with. It said that no matter how we spend Memorial Day weekend, we should take a moment to remember the fallen.

It continued with a touching, eloquent quote from a former president of the United States. Something to the effect that freedom is not free.

I grew up under the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceausescu in Communist Romania, so I take these words to heart. Backyard grilling or lakeside parties are fine, but I also like to take a moment and at least say a prayer for the families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. Who can measure or comfort their pain?

I don't think we have a family tradition yet about Memorial Day. This year, we found ourselves on the Cherokee Indian reservation. Our children are becoming more aware of their surroundings, so it was fun to point things out to them or answer their questions.

We really like the drive there through the national park. Big, yellow butterflies fluttered in front of the car. I don't think I have ever seen as many butterflies before. The sun cast large shadows over the mountains because of white, fluffy clouds.

The striking difference between dark green and light green trees gave me an opportunity to talk to the kids about coniferous and deciduous tree types. Just a short and sweet lesson about the natural world.

As we entered Cherokee, the sign with dancing water and fire grabbed everybody's attention. I made sure the kids noticed the different alphabet spelling out street names right under the English names. I think it's neat that we live so close to a nation that speaks a different language and even uses a different alphabet.

Another striking feature in that town is the painted bear and eagle statues. “Why do they paint them?” came the question. I will have to look that up.

We noticed they are putting in sidewalks in Cherokee, which will make shopping safer and easier, no doubt. The boutiques offer some great souvenirs.

We were hoping to see an Indian dance through the main streets, but no luck this time. In the past, we could stop and watch and listen to some of the stories told. It's fascinating, their worldview. And that reminds me...

When I was living in Stockholm, the company I worked for took us on a retreat to a bed and breakfast on the largest Swedish island, Gotland. The eatery's walls were covered with Native American themes.

Somebody brought up religion. “Do you believe in God?” is a strong question in Sweden, the world's most secular country. Most of us were immigrants, so we found it easier to break the social barriers and ask that question. The innkeeper said, “I believe in Indians. They knew something about nature and life that we don't know. I believe in their beliefs.”

The world is big. It is filled with people of different belief systems. It's sad that religion can cause so many wars. Which brings me back to Memorial Day.

Our soldiers go to places near and far to fight for freedom. If you will, they die so that we can believe differently, according to our conscience. Many have given their lives so we can enjoy Memorial Day weekend and any other weekend without fear. For that, I am thankful.

Adriana Zoder, a Gatlinburg resident, is a writer and homeschooling mom. She and her husband have two children. She maintains the award-winning blog www.homeschoolways.com. Her book, 101 Tips for Preschool at Home, is available on Amazon.