Monday, June 11, 2012

Hunger Games, a Promotion, and Memories

          Saturday was a day full of fun things and unexpected memories. First I read Mockingjay, the conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Reading it brought up memories of my time in the formerly Communist Russia. About watching the way people were affected psychologically, how they lived and survived, how these behaviors remained even after the downfall of that totalitarian government.   Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay's author, describes a fictional world that has lived for 74 years under a dictatorial government. She describes in vivid details both the excess and frivolity of those in the Capital, the wanton disregard for the rest of the country by the government, and the desperate struggle to survive of the lower class people.  It brought to mind many of the teachers I worked with talking about the food shortages during the Soviet Union, of standing in line for hours in the bitter cold only to walk into stores with bare shelves. It reminded me how creative writing was one of the hardest tasks for my bright students to engage in, since fitting in was necessary for survival during the old times. Being different was certain to engage the interest and questioning of the authorities. Collins describes the families grieving over the loss of their children in the gladiatorial Hunger Games which reminds me of a statue in Moscow's Museum of the Great Patriotic War.  Immediately I am mentally standing in the Hall of Remembrance and Sorrow before  the white marble statue depicting a mother mourning over the body of her son who died in military action. Presented are both the dignity and respect of one who gave his life for his country and the grief of a mother who's son will never come home.  The difference is of course that honor is being paid to those who defended their country from the encroaching Nazi Germany while in the book previous lives are thrown around for the amusement of a fickle population.
          When I finish a book, and especially a series, I am always a little bit sad that it is over.  I hate both saying goodbye to characters that, although fictional, have become my friends for several hours and leaving the world in which they live.  I find myself wanting to know what happens after the last period and how the story continues for these people.  After finishing the Hunger Games trilogy, I felt an array of emotions. Swirling together with the sadness over finishing and a slight disappointment over the ending were the memories of my time in my beloved Russia.  Again I am forced to realize that I left a part of my heart in Russia and it will never return to me.  I cannot tell you why Russia, why I love it so. I can only tell you that it is there and it will never stop. The people, so long downtrodden and denied hope, both stoic and loving, proud and generous, such a unique mixture of what should be opposites, are forever in my heart.
          Barely had I time to reflect on all of this before it was time to get ready. I managed to corral my boys through the bath and into dress clothes to head to the promotion ceremony of a friend in the army.  As always, I feel gratefulness and pride during the playing of the national anthem. Ever since my time in Russia, I have become misty-eyed when I see our beautiful flag and hear the song reminding us about the hard-earned fight to become "the land of the free." Today, emotionally a little raw over Mockingjay, in an aircraft hanger celebrating the promotion of one of those brave who help preserve our freedom, tears fell as I leaned over and switched my youngest son's left hand to right and showed him where his heart is.
          He made one star general. I love the ceremony and tradition of the military. Not just because I love flags flying, sharp dress uniforms, and highly polished shoes. Not that I don't enjoy the parades... I love the patriotism, commitment, and the personal sacrifice that our men and women in uniform display. To me, they are heroes. Christ stated, "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." Jn. 15:13 (NLT)  Our military is an unbroken line over 200 years old who have been willing to give their lives to defend the freedoms we often take for granted.  My friend is a strong Christian and was able I give his testimony.  He is one who stands with all the pomp and circumstance of an elite promotion and not only quotes, but lives "with great privilege comes great responsibility." He truly understands the obligations required of his new post. It was an honor to be there and celebrate this day with him, his supportive wife, and his family who have all had to make sacrifices.
          As I watched his wife and grown children fasten his general stars on, I remember my own brother's swearing in ceremony.  It started at midnight eleven years ago, but many details are permanently fixed in my brain, colorful as the pictures that I frantically took. The pride in seeing take his oath of office and mom and dad pin his butter bars on.  Of realizing that he went through four years of intense and often torturous training for the honor of standing on that stage and promising to make further sacrifices to defend this great country.  Of realizing that years of prayers had just been answered. The ear-to-ear grin on the face of my normally quiet and reserved brother, a smile not often seen the last few years. Of being the crazy sister who was so determined to record everything on film for posterity that she stood in three-inch heels on a metal folding chair in order to get the best shot. The faces on the people in the chairs around me, ladies in sequined dresses and officers with shiny metal and ribbons on their chest and shoulders, not one looked truly askance at my actions because they understood the pride.

         There I sat, on a metal folding chair, proud of the perseverance and sacrifice of both the general and his wife. The memories came flowing back. And a few tears. But this time I didn't stand on my chair.

A generous Lt. Col spent several minutes allowing the boys to tour the helicopter. It made their month!

The boys are tiny compared to the Blackhawk.

It wasn't hard to get them to smile for the camera. :)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your memories....I left part of my heart in Russia as well. I often mourn not being able to return.

    I'm still on Book 1 of the Hunger Games but have likened what happens in the book with living in a dictatorship. Very insightful!

    Please write more!