The One Day We Forget
An ‘Iron Chef’ challenge by Brother Grimace
Quinn Morgendorffer loved going on trips. This one was even better than the ones her mommy and daddy usually took her on in the car, because there were so many things to do, and so many new things to see!
The five-year-old bounced around happily in her seat, her twin strawberry-blonde pigtails bobbing up and down, and she looked out at the big, big field that was just full of grass and big, white stones – well, that’s what Daddy called them… some kind of stones – what’s a stone, anyway?
First, there was the plane ride from Texas. It was so much fun! Quinn and her daddy rode in the big, big plane, with the big, round hump at the very front and top of the plane – they called it a ‘Jumbo’, like the elephant… Daria would know why they called it that… Daria knew so much stuff – I just wish that Mommy and Daddy would stop fighting and yelling about her being so smart, and none of the other kids liking her…Quinn closed her eyes, trying to will herself to remember her question… Daria likes it when I ask her about new stuff, because then she can get a new book to read about it…
Then there was the trip here, to this big field, with all of the people, all dressed up – and there were so many people dressed the same! There were lots of people in white outfits, with black things on their shoulders that had gold stripes, and there were the people in all blue, but they dressed kind of plain…the people in the green suits at least had lots of shiny buttons…
Then there were the people in the black and blue suits, with the white hats and gloves… Quinn looked around her, because all of the people sitting with her and her daddy were dressed like that. Some were really old, some were so mean looking, and some were so… so... so cute…! Some of the really cute ones had little gold things that looked like wings on their suits, and some had red stripes on their pants – and they wore swords, just like the knights in the movies! She was dressed up, too, in the Easter dress she wore when she found her first Easter egg…
She noticed that her daddy, like a lot of the people there, wore a little pin that looked like a flag on his suit coat…
She saw all of the little flags that people were holding and waving, and wished that she had one, too
Quinn sat quietly, because that’s what you did when you went to places like this, like church, or the tea parties that Mommy went to when Grandma came to visit… she wished that the old man talking would hurry up, so they could go and eat… Daddy promised her that she could have ice cream… What’s this ‘Arlington’ they keep talking about… is it an ice cream they only make here…?
People kept taking pictures of her. That was okay – she was dressed in her nicest outfit; Mommy said it was, and Daria really didn’t like it, so she knew that she looked really cute in it… after a while, the flashes started bothering her – she kept blinking her eyes, and they started to water… one of the cute ones in black-and-blue with the wings gave her a tissue to wipe her eyes… funny, they took even more pictures then…
Finally, the people stopped talking. Quinn took her daddy’s hand and waited in a long line… people passed around her, and through their legs, she could barely see the rows and rows of the white stones, as far as she could see… why did some of the people kneel down in front of the stones – why is that old, old soldier crying… I thought the ones in the black-and-blue never cried…?
“And who’s this precious little girl…?”
Quinn turned around to see the man who was talking before, standing right in front of her, and he was so old, old like he should be somebody’s grandpa – I know you, I saw you before, I saw you on TV-
“You were on TV – you had a horse and a cowboy hat!”
The old man smiled, and Quinn didn’t feel silly for what she said; the old man’s smile was big, and it made her feel happy, and she smiled back at him. “I still have both,” he said. “What’s your name?”
“Quinn. And this is your daddy?”
“Yes, sir.” Quinn suddenly remembered her manners, and did a flawless curtsy. “Quinn Morgendorffer.”
“Oh, she’s just so adorable…” Quinn looked up to see a lady standing next to the old man; she was older than her grandma, but she reminded her of Grandma, just the same. “Your name is Quinn?”
The lady looked around. “Don’t you have a flag, Quinn?”
“No, ma’am. Can I have one?”
Smiling, the lady gave her flag to Quinn. “Here you go…”
The beaming smile Quinn returned made everyone watching smile, as well. “Thank you!”
“Well, Quinn, you take care of your daddy for me, all right?”
Quinn watched as the old man and the lady both shook her daddy’s hand, and then, her daddy led her away. “They were nice,” she said, starting to skip, so she could keep up with her daddy’s pace. “Where are we going, Daddy?”
“To see my daddy.”
The little girl immediately stopped, and let go of her daddy’s hand. “What’s wrong, Quinn?”
“I thought you didn’t like Grandpa,” Quinn said, a questioning look on her face.
“Today is different,” her daddy said, offering out his hand.
“Why is today different?”
“Come on… I’ll show you…”
With some hesitation, Quinn took the offered hand. Daddy yelled more about his daddy and how mean he was even more than he did about money, or his job, or not having time with Mommy because she worked all the time (what’s so special about ‘spending time together alone’?) or even Daria not being like everybody else… why were they going to see him?
They walked along the rows and rows and rows stones, each one so clean and bright, it was as if somebody came and brushed each one clean, just for them. “Here we are.”
They stopped in front of a stone. It was white, and shiny, and it had words on it, and numbers, too. Quinn wasn’t much of a reader yet, but she could make out the words, which read:
Msgt. A.H. MORGENDORFFER, U.S.M.C.
September 26, 1929
July 7, 1976
Above the words was a design, cut deep into the stone… a star-like design, with five little stars.
Quinn suddenly realized that her daddy was holding something in his other hand… that he’d been holding it the entire time. She couldn’t see anything but a piece of ribbon - pale blue, with white stars…
“Today’s bigger than how I feel, Quinn,” her daddy said, looking down at the stone, his face sad. “Today’s bigger than all of the yelling, and the hurting words, and the disappointment on both sides… today, Quinn… today is about them.”
“About all of them, Quinn,” her father said. “It’s about your grandpa. It’s about the best friend I ever had… a boy named Willy Johannsen. It’s about remembering the good that they did; it’s about putting everything else aside, even if for one day. That’s what today’s about, Quinn.”
The little redhead looked up, her eyes questioning. “I thought that you were mad at Grandpa.”
“Today’s different, Quinn,” he responded. “Today… it’s about seeing the good in men like my father, and remembering the good people like Willy… people who should have gotten a lot more than this… who deserved so much more this.”
Quinn had never seen her daddy stand up so straight, and tall… for a moment, her daddy reminded her of all of the men in the special suits. “Today isn’t just about the memorial services –“
“What’s a mem- a memodi – what you just said?”
“Memorial’. ‘Memorial Day’. Today isn’t just about remembering things, and people… it’s about forgetting – choosing not to remember. Today, Quinn… today, is the one day that we forget… we forget about everything else, except that they gave up so much for us…” He choked back sad emotions from long ago; memories of a trip to this same field, so many years ago. “Never let any of these men be more deserving of this life than you are…”
“Oh…” He sniffled, and Quinn instinctively took his hand. “That’s something a cook told me once, a long time ago… the last time I ever saw my best friend.”
Jake stuffed the item he was holding into his suit pocket, and then looked back down at Quinn. “Come on, honey. Let’s go home.”
The little girl looked at her father for a long moment, and then stepped away from him; she knelt down before the gravestone of her grandfather, and very carefully, planted the flag she had in the soft, giving earth. She stood back up, brushing a few scraps of newly mown grass away, and then, imitated an action that she’d seen all day…
Quinn Morgendorffer saluted the American flag.
She lowered her hand, and placed it in her father’s waiting grasp. “Goodbye, Grandpa,” she said. “Goodbye.”
Author’s Note: Thanks go out to Deref and Angelinhel for inspirations that were useful for the creation of this fic.
06 May 2005