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Nina In New York: Happy Memorial Day! What Is Memorial Day?

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Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

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A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
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Finally! Memorial Day weekend is upon us. I really felt like it might not happen for us this time around. Every year the winters seem to get worse and longer and the springs get harder and stormier and then all of a sudden BANG it’s summer. I mean I know it isn’t actually summer, but you know. It’s summer.

I’ve been thinking about the fact that most people don’t actually think about what Memorial Day is. Or Labor Day, for that matter (but we’ll save that for September). Those two holidays have come to represent the bookends of the standard American summer—the opening and closing of beach and lake homes, the debut and retreat of white pants and shoes (I dispute this rule, for the record), the initiation of all sorts of well-intentioned plans and the all-too-soon close of the window of opportunity to see them through. The city will empty out a little, the subways will be less crowded, the restaurants and bars will have more empty seats. For those of us who stick it out here (and I do mean stick), this is our reward. This weekend, we’re ghost-faced and hopeful. All of time seems to stretch before us, and we make grand designs on barbecues and suntans (or sunburns, as it were), vacations and day trips,  happy hours and dates with long lost friends, workout regimes and hey maybe I’ll take up bike riding or rock climbing or canyoning or surfing or clamming! Yes, clamming. Why not? Though even now, in the backs of our minds we know that in three months our skin will be peeling and without having done half of those things, we’ll begin the slow trudge back to shorter days and colder nights. But for now, we’re on the good end of the lollipop and the world is our oyster (I should learn to shuck this summer). How many metaphors did I just mix? Lots. Enough.

What was I saying? Oh yes. As it turns out, Memorial Day means something aside from an excuse to get an expensive bikini wax. It actually means…something. Of substance, that is to say. It’s a day that, for many, is set aside to observe the passing of those who fought for our country, and for some, just of those whom they loved. When you think about it, that’s a pretty stark dichotomy from the way the rest of us treat it. We see it as the beginning of something great, while others think of endings. Sad ones. Maybe endings that came too soon. I was feeling a little guilty about this, to be honest. Here we are kicking off the season of frivolity while, at its roots, Memorial Day is supposed to be a serious one. But then I thought more about it and I think it seems just right. Right that the memory of those who fought would be all knotted together with celebrations and fireworks and the thoughts of free time spent well and free.

Happy Memorial Day, whatever it means to you.

Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina Archives:

If You Have To Ask…Don’t

Blame It On The Rain

What A Week!

This Place Is A Zoo

Things Can’t Be All Bad

Where’s Oda Mae Brown When You Need Her?

Never Was I More Disturbed To Say ‘I (Sorta) Told You So.’

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