News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

April 17, 2012

LIZ CIANCONE: Holidays don't mean what they used to

It’s funny how your perspective on holidays changes as you grow older. I thought of that the other morning as we are about to start the countdown to Memorial Day.

Both Mom and Dad were active in the American Legion, Mom in the Auxiliary and Dad in the Legion. On Memorial Day, both groups provided us kids with a fist full of American flags and we were sent to Yorkville’s cemetery with a map showing us which graves we were responsible for decorating.

I knew that most families decorated the graves of their ancestors with flowers, but my ancestors were buried in widely scattered parts of the Midwest, Mom’s in rural Iowa and Dad’s in assorted small towns in Illinois. (Have you even heard of “Wing” or “Piper City”?) So, I looked forward to Memorial Day and those flags so I had someone to remember, at least in a way.

We also got flags on Armistice Day and the Legion never neglected those graves either. We don’t even observe Armistice Day now. It has been rechristened as “Veterans’ Day.” There is no longer a five-minute silence at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 to reflect on those killed in World War I. We’ve had too many wars and too many (and too few) periods of peace, I guess.

I looked forward to Independence Day too. I learned a lot about how our government is supposed to work and how hard our ancestors fought so we even have a country. I liked to listen to the speakers on July 4. They reminded me of the sacrifices made at Valley Forge.

Oh yes, the fireworks were fun too. Now adults are so afraid kids will hurt themselves we can only watch while the professionals shoot off those colorful noisemakers.

It’s too bad we have begun to look forward to holidays as nothing more than a day off work, or the day a major sports event is on the tube.

I’ll be remembering those flags as I listen to the race cars speeding around the Indy 500.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star education and general assignment reporter. Her columns have appeared on this page for more than 20 years. Send email to

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