I Can’t Make This Stuff Up — Martin Luther King Day

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Martin Luther King Day is this coming Monday.  I have been trying to figure out some way to celebrate it with my boys.  In the past I have taken them to the OKC Downtown Parade, but I am really not sure they are getting the messages of Unity and Peaceful Protest.  There are a lot of people there that want to celebrate our racial differences rather than unity and although there is always some protest….let’s just say “peace is not passing understanding.”  It more feels like all of the prejudices that we reject the other 364 days a year come together in one very long parade.

In my attempt to find a different experience, I visited the websites of several organizations that I thought might do something more meaningful for MLK Day.  Nothing.  I found nothing.

After 20 minutes or more of obsessively Googling “Kids MLK Activities in OKC”, “OKC Day of Service”, “MLK Activities”, “OKC Calendar January 21”, etc., Law Man exclaims, “stop being neurotic.  No one does anything for MLK Day it is just a day out of school.”

Blasphemy!  The older my children get, the more keenly aware I become of my finite time with them.  This is the time when we should be reading all of the great classics, visiting art museums, serving others and celebrating the true meaning of holidays.  Even the ones that fall on Monday’s.

“I guess I will just take them to visit family at a cemetery.”  I retort.

“That will really confuse them,” says Law Man.

“Why would I take them to a cemetery?” you might ask.  It is simple.  When I was in elementary school and early junior high….possibly into high school, it was family tradition to visit different cemeteries on Memorial Day.  For a few years, we even drove for hours visiting the graves of family names I had never heard.  My sisters and I were told that this is what you do on Memorial Day and apparently it never occurred to us to ask why there were not other children wandering small town cemeteries and posing for pictures.  This went on for years.  In fact, it went on until my middle sister, the pacifist of the family, spoke up.  It was Memorial Weekend her freshman year in college and my father asked if she was coming home for the long weekend.  Her response pretty much sums up all of our opinion.

“NO!  I am going to the lake to lay around and drink beer like the rest of America.”

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We still laugh about this tradition and question why we went along with it for so many years.  And, because I was afraid some of you might think I was exaggerating the situation, I even found an old photo.  This is 9-year-old me crouching next to the headstone of someone, somewhere, who I am apparently related to in some way.

Now, I don’t remember what we did to celebrate Martin Luther King Day when I was a kid, except for an occasional ski trip, but I do remember the extra effort my parents put into us knowing those who came before us.  I even surprised myself when upon finding this old photo, the first thing I did, was call my dad and ask,“How are we related to John and Sarah Darrough?”

Come to find out they are the grandparents of My Great Grandmother Mary.  The one who I am convinced I channel.  The grandmother who began our homestead in New Mexico.  The daughter of the Parker Library that I inherited.

I suppose I won’t take my kids to visit cemeteries, but I will do something meaningful in the hope that some 25 years later it all makes sense to them.  What are you doing to celebrate Martin Luther King Day?

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