Every November, without fail, I buy a poppy and lose it the same day. Sometimes, this happens more than once. One year, it happened four times. The pin is an unreliable method of keeping the poppy attached to me. This year, a friend told me to try sticking a chunk of an eraser on the end. It worked. After buying and losing the first poppy, the second one I bought has been with me for days. This year, too, a little pin fastener was included with some of the poppies for sale. I bought poppies for Fiona and Bridget, and – thanks to the fastener – they’re still wearing them.
The poppy has always been a powerful symbol for me. Years ago, it seemed to me that everyone wore them. I remember when they were green in the middle. Now, they have a black centre – and there are white poppies, too. I see less of them than I used to, but there are still many. Poppies are simultaneously beautiful and sad and hopeful. The sight of them piled on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Remembrance Day ceremony is deeply moving, and heavy with the collective memories and sacrifice and sorrow of all those whose lives have been affected by war.
When I was a child in rural Newfoundland, Remembrance Day stood out to me because, at 11:00 a.m., for two minutes, everything stopped. This never happened any other time of the year, and those two minutes seemed endless. Sometimes, we were listening to the radio, sometimes we were watching the broadcast from the war memorial in Ottawa. Now I live in Ottawa, and most years I don’t try to jostle my way downtown and back – but I still watch it on TV. The faces of the veterans, struggling for composure in the chilly November wind, broke my heart every year. They still do.
I don’t have anything new to say about poppies, or Remembrance Day, or war. I just want to take this moment to honour our soldiers. Those who have fallen, those who are still standing, and those who are still fighting. You traded your security and peace for ours. Thank you.