Well, friends, we’ve passed over that invisible threshold into the Season of Remembrance. Earlier this week, I sent a note via the magic of technology to one of the Royal Canadian Legions in Cambridge. ‘Will there be a poppy flag raising this year?’ In past, when I was a volunteer with the Army Cadet League of Canada, I had a direct line into the local Legions by way of our liaisons. I could have called them still, I suppose, but I just wanted a quick answer and the Legion website(s) didn’t have any mention of the flag raising, so I just sent a quick question.
I know that last year, there wasn’t a flag raising ceremony (thanks, Covid). The few years before that, it was a not-well-publicized event at Cambridge city hall to parade out the colour guard from the legion(s), play Last Post and Rousse, and raise the flag where it would continue to fly for the twoish weeks before Remembrance Day.
I never got an answer back from them – there was a “I’m not sure. It might be in Preston. I’ll look into it”. I never heard back. If it was a thing, it would have been yesterday, so it’s kind of moot anyway. The campaign started yesterday, flag or not.
I’ve been looking at previous Remembrance projects and in the 5 years since it started to be a thing in Cambridge, it always feel a little thrown together at the last minute. And I get it – it’s a slippery calendar ride from Canadian Thanksgiving to Hallowe’en to Remembrance Day. Even gearing up for this project always feels like I have time, I have time, and ZOMG I HAVE TO PUBLISH NOW! But feels like a really inauspicious start to something important. And I know how much work the Poppy Chairperson and their team of worker bees is putting in to get boxes out into the community and organizing and scheduling volunteers to take the poppy boxes out. They put in a *lot* of work. And really, it’s something that everyone knows is a thing. Nobody in Canada sees the box of poppies beside the cash register at the drug store or their local restaurant and wonders what that’s all about. We know.
Today, as we all go about our daily dailies – to see my nephew’s hockey game, to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday, to Shoppers Drug Mart to get eggs – we’ll start to see more people wearing poppies on their jacket. My gentleman associate started wearing his poppy earlier this week; I start today.
And I guess that’s not such a bad thing. My preference is for there to be a literal flag to indicate that Remembrance Fortnight has begun. But having someone inspire others to wear a poppy to honour and commemorate the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Expeditionary Force before that works too. Like the way that a candlelighting ceremony starts with a few pools of light, and then a whole group, the whole community is glowing gently, reverently. Let’s do that.
But it seems we (in Cambridge, anyway) once again start the Remembrance Fortnight not with a bang, but a whimper. In the Time of Covid, it’s harder to get people to volunteer out in the public. The Legions that had, in past, relied on Air, Army, and Navy cadets to do help with the poppy campaign couldn’t last year and can’t this year again. It’s harder to do anything. When you’re struggling to do the GotsToDo’s, the NiceToDo’s don’t happen. So if you can and you feel inclined, maybe give the Legion a ring to see if you can help.
So in lieu of an official ceremony, this is how I cross the starting line into the Remembrance project this year. As always, I hope you find inspiration in my reflections to come in the next two weeks, but more important than that is that you find a way, whatever speaks to you, to remember those who never returned home, and to honour and thank those who served their country for an entire career, and to encourage and thank those currently serving. You don’t have to support war, you just need to support those willing to serve.
We will remember them.
Also, I’ve added the reflections from past years into one convenient place: