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Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Poppies, poppies…

In the film the Wizard of Oz, the main characters come upon a great field of poppies and overcome with fatigue, two of them drop to sleep where they stand.  The imagery was powerful to me as a little girl, because poppies represented Veteran’s Day, having always gone with my Grandpa Andy to the cemetery to honor our heroes, stopping along the way to buy poppies to pin to our shirts.  To see Dorothy fall to the ground, surrounded by the bright orange symbols of our heroes – made me shiver, thinking that Dorothy might not recover, becoming just another fallen champion of a great cause. 

Mrs. Parker, my fourth grade teacher, read aloud In Flanders Field — a poem written during World War I — in the days leading up to Veteran’s Day, but its meaning didn’t touch my heart until much later:

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.

The Wicked Witch of the West cackled, “Poppies!  Poppies will put them to sleep.  Sleep!  Now, they’ll sleep,” but the poem promised no sleep for the fallen if we were to break faith with them and as a child, I knew that no magic was more powerful than that.

History tells us that poppies covered the fields of battle and the cemeteries where troops were buried.  My Grandpa said that the poppy would forever symbolize Veteran’s Day.  So, as an adult, I would always make a special trip to the market on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Riverside Drive in Studio City on November 11th because they've always had a place for our gentleman Veterans selling commemorative poppies.  Today, as I do almost every year, I’ll again drive the 25 miles or so back to the same store to purchase poppies for my children. 

 

This afternoon, whether they understand the words or not, I will recite In Flanders Fields and attempt to convey the message I had learned long ago.  I hope to help them understand that …the torch is ours, to hold it high and never break faith with those who died.

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