Monday, May 25, 2015

The Challenge

I wanted it.
I'd trained for it.
I had to win it.
But I didn't count on Jackson.


Memorial Day is about remembering those military men and women who have fought for our country.  To them I say, "Thank you, ladies and gentleman, for your service."

Across America, Memorial Day is also about boating, BBQ and beaucoup beer. In my California neighborhood it is also about putting out the American flag first. My neighbors and I could keep our flags up all day, every day and night, but we don't. That would be cheating. Last year I noticed how my 86 year-old neighbor had decorated his front yard in 76 mini flags before I could even get my one large flag displayed.

"Hey Harold, you're quick with the flag draw," I said pointing to his flag display.
"You have to get up pretty early to beat me to it," he said folding his arms across his chest.
"Are you challenging me?"
"I'm just saying: I'm always the first one in the neighborhood to put up the flag," he shrugged and shuffled off into his house. He was... gloating.

Challenge accepted, Harold. You. Are. Going. Down.

I prepped for our competition. For weeks I set my phone alarm for the crack of dawn. I practiced putting on my shoes while half asleep. I trained in lifting the flag like the soldiers of the Iwo Jima statue. Finally the big day arrived. The night before Memorial Day I pulled the flag out of the closet, propped it next to the kitchen door and dusted off its exterior flag mount on the front of the house. Fully prepared, I went to bed. On M-Day I rose at 5:45 AM, pulled on my clothes and shoes and peered outside. Harold's flag was not up. Ah-hah! I raced to the kitchen door sure of victory.

Unfortunately Jackson did not know that Harold and I had a serious competition going on at this hour of the day. Rather he thought I had arisen from a deep, snored-infused sleep to feed him his can of wet food. As I approached the kitchen door Jackson was threading his body in and out of my legs. How could I get outside with this cat tripping me up? I couldn't. Boom. I fell over the feline and landed in a downward-facing dog pose.

Walking my hands toward my feet I stood up, tore open the pantry and grabbed a can of salmon shreds cat food. Pulling off its seal proof top, I slid it in front of the cat like a deli's short order cook then resumed my flag competition.

Opening the door I rushed outside, grabbed the flag and sped to the front of the house. Unfurling the stars and stripes I stabbed the pole into its mount. A smile spread across my face. Success! I beat Harold! Then turning to my neighbor's yard, my stomach fell. Harold's flag was mounted and flapping in the gentle morning breeze. It looked beautiful. What didn't look beautiful was my second place finish.

But then I thought about it: flying the flag--whether you're first in the neighborhood or last--is about honoring our servicemen and women. Which means anyone who flies a flag is a winner. Or at least that's my consolation prize for this heart-breaking second place.

Wishing you a fun and thankful Memorial Day!



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