Yesterday, child in tow, I drove to the home of the couple I lovingly refer to as my parental units. Driving past a middle school, I looked over and saw two students taking down the American and state flags. The other students milled around or were hurrying on their way home.
It’s amazing at times what memories rush, unbidden, to the forefront of your mind. Taking you back to a time you may have thought was long forgotten, or at the very least, not one that you would spend any time recalling. This was one of those memories.
I went to grade school in a military base. A Marine Corps base, to be precise. The raising and lowering of the flag was always done with great respect. As a sixth grader, I was chosen to be one of the few safety patrols guards. In other words, a glorified crossing guard, but we took our positions very seriously. It was a big deal to be chosen and presented with that white nylon safety patrol belt with its shiny silver colored badge.
We were not only responsible for making sure that no students crossed the streets before it was safe, corner crossing only….no jaywalking allowed…..we made sure that each grade lined up at the various school doors in an orderly fashion, decided which lines got to enter the school first…according to how straight and quiet they were…and made sure that before and after school, there was no running on school property sidewalks.
Our most sacred duty though, and one we all vied to be picked for, was flag duty. Two safety patrol guards were picked every couple of weeks for this honor. We were responsible for unfolding and raising the American and the state flag in the morning. After school, we lowered and folded these flags, making sure they were in perfect triangles when we were done. This was done with respect shown by everyone. If you were outside, and that whistle blew, you did not move. You did not talk. Either of those offenses done during either flag ceremony was a reportable offense, if caught by any of the safety patrol guards. For those two brief moments out if our school day, we paid attention and respect to something so much bigger than us, though admittedly, we were not necessarily aware that was what we were doing.
Which brings me back to the present, and small wave of wistfulness washes over me, when I realize that so many things that had meaning when I was growing up have lost their significance, but maybe that is the way of things, and a by-product of time marching on.