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Memorial Day

This cloth

This folding and refolding of clouds, this rippled quilt of sea
pulled to shore and away — this is not the work of a god I believe in,
only a cinematic trick, a way to speak of the unfathomable,
distract eye and heart from bodies bloodied and fallen
in a synagogue, at a concert — oh any place bodies can huddle
in a moment’s hope or grief. The cloth of us ripped and frayed,
every thread torn from itself, warp from weft. And still,
here is what we do: collect the threads, pick the strands of light
from darkness, hold the gnarled ball in open palms to gather
our tears and then, slow as autumn’s night absorbs light,
we begin to weave.

. . . . .

weaving by J.I. Kleinberg, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower” named for a poem by Dylan Thomas

poem by J.I. Kleinberg published in Clementine Unbound, February 2019

May 30

1954 - DAK-LRKUntil 1971, when national holidays began to wander the calendar in search of Monday, my parents each had a claim on May 30th: it was Memorial Day and it was my mother’s birthday.

By the time they met, the war was over; none of our family photos show them together with Les in uniform. The remnants of my father’s war were few: dog tags, Zippo, foot locker, sleeping bag, photos, and a slim folder of paperwork. His scars were not physical and, like others of his generation, he bore them with stoicism and little comment.

If my mother’s war had been a time of personal strength and freedom, she seemed equally willing to set it aside in favor of her new life with my father.

Each year on Memorial Day my father honored his memories, his lost family and friends, with a quiet walk among the headstones at the Veteran’s Cemetery. While my mother claimed to be unsentimental about her birthday, she never accompanied him on those walks, his brief abandonment of her like a small stone in the birthday cake.

But my father would return, soothed and soothing, and, wounds attended, the birthday would resume.

Each of my parents owned a part of the day, and a part of me. It seems we still celebrate together.
. . . . .
photo: Dorothy and Les, 1954

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is, appropriately, full of sober remembrances to mark the challenges and sacrifices of military service. But as we honor those who served, it’s cheering to also remember that soldiering is a time of enormous camaraderie and, often, great good humor. In light of that, I offer this little treasure — a “Commendation and Recommendation for Soldier’s medal of the Soldier’s Cross of the Knight’s Cross, 2d Class (with palms and two oak leaf clusters)” — bestowed upon my father, Capt. Kleinberg, by his commanding officer, Col. Kaiser, in 1943.


Memorial Day…

Memorial Day…

Los Angeles National Cemetery

For decades before the Uniform Monday Holiday Act turned it into a Monday event, Memorial Day was May 30th, and it was much more than a national holiday. May 30th was my mother’s birthday — a day as fraught with ritual and importance as anything the government could devise. Today she would have been 100.

Our house was perched on a small bluff overlooking the Veteran’s Cemetery. There, on the other side of a chain link fence, tens of thousands of marble headstones stood in quiet rows amidst acres of grass and towering eucalyptus trees.

My mother and father did not visit the graves of their parents. Their own final wishes specified ashes scattered at sea, with no marker or headstone, no “there.” But on Memorial Day, my father would leave my birthday-hungry mother to walk through one vast section or another of the cemetery, studying the worn markings, reflecting on his fallen comrades and, perhaps, the wonder of his own survival. The ritual walk on Memorial Day was his alone. As a child, I accompanied him once or twice, but I was no more capable of the necessary contemplation than he was of cartwheeling and leapfrogging among the headstones.

He wouldn’t talk about the War. It was his war, and its outlines were sketched for me in the vaguest collection of names and faded photographs. The desert. A patched sleeping bag where a field mouse had burrowed to have her babies. An aversion to the taste of lamb. Patton. Gillam. Europe. He had seen too much and lost too much and spent the remaining 40 years of his life guarding against the invasion of his memories.
photo by Robin Z

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