Another Remembrance Day has passed. Once-sedate store windows will now explode into riots of colour and sparkle; poppies will be replaced with ornamental pins, and most of us will likely forget about our past sacrifices until next November 11, or worse, another military tragedy takes place.
We attended the annual Legion Cenotaph service on Sunday. We go every year, but this year was different because Charlotte is old enough to start trying to understand what the service means. How do you explain such adult concepts as war, peace and valour to a child?
Sometimes, we needn’t worry so much. The act of deliberate participation brings its own understanding, even for a small child. We warned her that the “parade” would be similar to church. She would need to be as quiet and patient as an almost four-year-old can be.
As the colour guard rounded the corner, Charlotte noted the Canadian flag and the “flower flag” featuring the poppy. Through the slit created by her toque and scarf, her eyes were narrowed in thought over what she was seeing. She was excited to participate when she could: she surprised us by knowing all of O Canada. “I sing it every day in school,” she proudly told us.
She grew understandably restless during the moment of silence and the laying of wreaths, but held her ground. As we trudged home at the ceremony’s end, Charlotte told us that she liked wearing a poppy and the marching best of all. We didn’t hear much else about it, but if experience tells me anything, there will be future discussion as her little mind processes what she saw.
Remembrance Day has grown in importance over the past decade. Our peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan resurrected our country’s awareness in the dangers of military service. This year, the attacks on military personnel in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu have reignited our collective consciousness. Polls and donations to the Legion’s Poppy Fund suggest that we indeed care again.
The zenith of this concern is the desire to make November 11 a national statutory holiday, something new for Ontario. I don’t doubt that the Private Member’s Bill has nothing but the best intentions, but I like the current singularity of Remembrance Day in our province.
We are fortunate in St. Marys to have a Remembrance Day service that already takes place on a “day off,” so more people can attend. Attendance doesn’t rival sporting events or casual pursuits in town, however. The recently created town service on Remembrance Day proper is growing in popularity; if the two were combined — as if on a statutory holiday — how many would come to pay their respects?
I don’t want a day off to remember. I want the solemnity of the occasion to strike me in the middle of a busy day, regardless of where in the week it falls. I want to take time out, and not time off, to reflect in gratitude. I want lunch delayed and my feet frozen as we stand in silence but also in solidarity. I want Charlotte to appreciate the day because it is different than the rest, and not the same.
Lately, the trend is to make things easy. Rather than igniting one’s own sense of duty, we need a government-mandated day off to supposedly do so. It seems to run contrary to the spirit not only of Remembrance Day, but of those who made the decision to fight for our freedom. If we can’t motivate ourselves to take a few moments to remember, we have lost all wars, past and future. The idea of reserving a few moments in a busy day for peaceful reflection honours the efforts of veterans as we live on and thrive through their sacrifices.
And yes, we are now entering the heart of the holiday season. Here’s a decadent dessert that is indeed as easy as pie and sounds like a showstopper; just pair with your favourite pie crust.
Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie
¾ cup maple syrup
2 ¼ cups heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pre-baked 9-inch pie crust
Preheat oven to 300°F. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce maple syrup by a quarter, 5-7 minutes. Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and egg. Whisking constantly, slowly add cream mixture to eggs. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a cup or bowl with pouring spout. Stir in salt, nutmeg and vanilla.
Pour filling into crust and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until pie is firm to touch but jiggles slightly when moved, about one hour. Let cool to room temperature before serving.