Tahmima Anam: ‘Memorial Day, or Remembrance Day, is a day of great solemnity’

Yes, I have a family house there, although living in New York City is a difficult existence anyway; every Sunday in Brooklyn we just lie on the balcony of the living room, while the…

Tahmima Anam: ‘Memorial Day, or Remembrance Day, is a day of great solemnity’

Yes, I have a family house there, although living in New York City is a difficult existence anyway; every Sunday in Brooklyn we just lie on the balcony of the living room, while the radio goes on all day about things going on in other places. Nevertheless, I cherish the daily patterns of Brooklyn life: the French fries at 4 in the afternoon and the eggs Benedict at 6 in the afternoon. This is where I spend most of my day, and it really is something.

The ritual of eating is especially important to me. Especially my late Sunday lunch – along with Katz’s famous lox from two days ago – and second helpings of cheese. In a few minutes, I will be somewhere else: a doctor’s office or a nursery, a hospital or a courthouse. Or it will be walking up a short hill up to Prospect Park where the evening extends. Or I will be changing clothes at the laundromat. Or I will be having another meal somewhere in the city. By 7, it is going to be time to climb into bed and close the door until tomorrow.

There are two Sundays a year, though, when my personal ritual goes out the window. One is Memorial Day, or Remembrance Day, which is generally recognised as being observed on 24 May. It’s a day of great solemnity that there are many different ways to celebrate: parades, speeches, songs, parodies, even partying. This year, my children and their spouses, who happen to be three of the eight children of a battle-hardened pilot who died in action in Vietnam, planned a benefit for the Lost Boys of Vietnam Association that will be held on Saturday night. It is a good thing that I can’t attend. I would die if I did.

Memorial Day is a day of solemnity, particularly in this country

On a Sunday, though, I certainly feel a strong kinship with all those dead who sacrificed so much for their country: those who served in foreign wars, those who fought battles, those who gave up their lives. My father grew up in the deep south, in the heart of the Confederacy, and in the Deep South we still glorify those brave men and women who died to defend the republic in America. I wear one of the old southern and redneck specialty Civil War pennants (created by Southern evangelists), and when travelling down the road, drivers still honk their horns in tribute to Robert E Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Huey Long, Wyatt Earp and the other great “war heroes” – often so close to where I’m standing, I feel an eerie sense of death and doom. The arrival of May, in the dead of winter, is when I stop pretending that all is right with the world; it is time to be practical again.

The other Sunday, I again find myself at home as the day draws to a close. I’ve had dinner with my son, I took him to a Broadway play, I run a little errand for the cats, I come back home and we smoke our way through some tea and cigarettes on the balcony, then I shut the door and go to sleep. Sometimes I can’t do that for a week, or for five years, but usually only for a few hours. This year, it will take the better part of a week.

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