Remembering

Light pink poppies

Tomorrow we will mark another Remembrance Day. I’ve written before about how meaningful this day is to me.

My grandfather served in World War II. Nov. 11 is also his birthday. Every year, the family would be together on Remembrance Day, and some of us still carry on that tradition, meeting at the cenotaph just before 11 o’clock on Nov. 11.

Growing up, my grandparents lived next door. One of the fixtures of my grandmother’s garden was her poppy plant. Now, whether through wind, seeds, transplanting or cuttings, my parents have the descendants of this poppy.

This fall, I collected a bunch of seeds from my Mom’s plants. I’m hoping that they will grow in our garden here at the farm, and give me more memories of my grandparents.

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In Flanders Fields

 

poppy5

I’m thinking today of my grandpa and other veterans.

I’m not sure how familiar people are with this poem. Here in Canada, it’s a fixture of Remembrance Day.

It was written during the First World War by Canadian John McCrae, who was born very near our farm. In part because of this poem, “the poppy was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance for the war dead of Britain, France, the United States, Canada and other Commonwealth countries” (Source)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Particularly this week, I am thankful to be Canadian. I’m also grateful to the people like my grandfather who took a stand to defend people who needed help and preserve freedom.

Remembrance

Remembrance Day is tomorrow. You might recall that this a very meaningful day for me.

In addition to marking the end of World War I and an occasion to remember the service and sacrifice of veterans as well as current soldiers, it is also my Grandpa’s birthday.

My grandfather in his World War 2 uniform

My grandfather at Avellino Dec. 29, 1944.

In Canada, many people observe Remembrance Day by wearing poppies for the weeks leading up to Nov. 11. The Royal Canadian Legion distributes the poppies. Poppies are never sold or purchased. People donate to the poppy campaign, and donations help ex-servicemen and women and their families.

A few years ago, I came across a free knitting pattern to make my own poppy from Canadian knitting designer Laura Chau. Laura wrote a great blog post earlier this month that includes a link to her pattern.

Knitting poppy for Remembrance Day

The poppies are easy to knit. To stitch one up is a small effort in light of what the poppy symbolizes.

Remembrance Day previously:

Remembering

In a corner of my parent’s family room hangs a very special display. It is a shadow box made by my Dad, filled with photos and mementos from my grandfather’s service in World War II. There are his medals, pins, his ID bracelet (his “dog tag”), his tank drivers license, pictures from training here in Canada and with his division overseas.

World War II medals and mementos in a shadow box

The centre of the display is obviously my grandpa’s medals. It took my grandfather a long time to share these medals with the family. Growing up, my Dad never saw them. Slowly, as the years passed and grandchildren were born, my grandfather began to show us items from the war. Eventually, when we went to the annual Remembrance Day service, he wore his medals.

Grandma and Grandpa

My Grandma and Grandpa in 2000

My grandfather did not talk about the war. My Dad asked him once and has a single page of notes from the conversation. It was obviously very hard for my grandfather to remember that time.

Perhaps that is why Remembrance Day is so important to me. I don’t know what my grandpa went through when he was overseas, but I know it had a big impact on him. Therefore, today, I take the time to remember him and to be grateful.

For last year’s Remembrance Day post, click here.

The story of a wooden shoe

Painted wooden shoe

When I was a little girl, this shoe sat in the curio cabinet in my grandparents’ living room. It is a hand-carved, child’s wooden shoe from Holland.

During the Second World War, my Grandpa was part of the Canadian Army. After first serving in Italy, his division was transferred to Holland. While in Holland, he was billeted with a Dutch family in their home.

When it came time for my grandfather to return to his own family in Canada, the family who had housed him wanted to express their gratitude. The father took his daughter’s wooden shoe, painted it with messages for my Grandpa and presented it to him.

Painted on the shoe is “Siddeburen,” the name of the town in which they lived, “souvenier,” “good by [sic], so long,” and “MEI 1945” (May, the month Holland was liberated by the Canadians).

Painted wooden shoe

For many decades after the war, my grandparents stayed in touch with the family, sending letters and cards back and forth over the Atlantic. The gratitude the Dutch people have for the Canadians was made tangible by my family’s connection to this one family.

Remembrance Day is a very meaningful day for me. In addition to marking the end of World War I and an occasion to remember the service and sacrifice of veterans as well as current soldiers, it is also my Grandpa’s birthday.

My grandfather in his World War 2 uniform

A note on the back of this photo in my Grandma’s handwriting says this picture was taken at Avellino, Italy Dec. 29, 1944.

This Sunday on Remembrance Day, I will be thinking of my Grandpa as I stand at the Legion with my family.

The wooden shoe now resides with my Aunt. My grandfather’s medals are with my Dad. Every time I visit, I look at these items and remember.

It is my hope that as Matt and I work on our forever house, we can fill it with meaningful items that show the legacy and tell the story of our families.