I like Bratwurst. I like mine with raw horseradish, on a soft bun nestled up to a big scoop of baked beans and a cold pile of potato salad. I can even go for a nice ear of yellow sweet corn dripping with butter and salted all around.
Give me these things in a shady backyard within view of a smoking grill and kids tossing a baseball, a cooler full of cold drinks and a glider seat or a rocking type chair and you have just made my summer complete.
All these things I had the chance to enjoy like so many others this past weekend as the official start of summer in the Midwest began with our annual Memorial Day Family Picnic.
There’s just something about having family spruce up their yards, mulch their flower beds, light a scented candle in the guest bathroom and invite all the sisters, sister- in-law, nieces and the food-picking uncles into the kitchen while glass pans of mac ‘n cheese, bacon covered baked beans and other special goodies are being heated in the oven.
There’s always the kid with the new summer haircut that exposes a lighter scalp, ear tops and a light line around the base of his skull to pick on a bit in good natured ribbing.
I love the little babies that show up in cute sun bonnets and get passed around and kissed by all of the relatives. What a life it must be for them to get so much attention without a worry in the world.
It’s nice to catch up on who is playing baseball this summer, where everybody is going on vacation, which nephew will soon be getting a driver’s license and to hear about upcoming engagements.
Laughing out loud over stories of picnics gone by and the old folks who are no longer with us who in their prime laid the bag of fireworks on the grill sending sky rockets zooming around under the “car port” and grandma running for cover improves the health
of all with belly aching laughter.
Thinking back to when there was no air conditioning into which we could dash for relief, wondering if the world really is getting hotter, reminding the young kids how lucky they not to find themselves stuck to the sheet in the middle of a steamy summer night, all adds
to the nostalgia of family gatherings.
Invariably there will be a newcomer, a new girlfriend of a nephew who causes everybody to be on their best behavior, avoiding that story about how a lanky kid used to have a funny name before he got braces.
There are stories about how picnics used to include horseshoes, or croquet games, volleyball in some yards and way back when a “rastlin’ match” or two late in the evening just as the sun was going down.
And all the while, standing in the yard, or sitting in the house enjoying the comfort and camaraderie of family, there is the stark reminder of mothers and fathers who when visiting their sons on this day carry a bouquet of flowers with a little flag in it, to be put into a copper vase at the foot of a headstone where his last highest rank is listed before his given name.
Freedom is a wonderful thing, but it is never free. Yes it’s the start of summer, the start of gardens, and swimming pools and vacation planning and getting ready for college. But it’s also a time to remember those who gave up their future so you could have yours.
Oh, the weekend is over and the time for all of that is done? My guess is that you will have another cookout before the snow falls and when you do take the time to think. How many picnics are others missing so I can enjoy mine? There’s no limit on how many times you can give thanks.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.