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This poppy symbolizes …

Published Nov. 7 2017

This morning I reached down and took hold of the Remembrance Day poppy that I had picked up from the army fellow sitting outside at the West Guilford Shopping Centre the day before. I always donate for at least one poppy every year as a sort of duty but I had felt a bit awkward this year as the man looked cold and tired. I didn't really know what to say to him other than how it was a chilly day to be spending outside.

The next day as I looked at the poppy sitting there on my kitchen table I felt moved to pick it up and really study it. I suddenly got this feeling of connecting which I don't remember ever having before.
I was thinking about what the poppy symbolized: thankfulness and respect for those who served in the armed forces on our behalf.
I started thinking about the fact that my mom and dad were teenagers during the Second World War. They lived in Liverpool England and survived the Blitz. My dad was in the Home Guard and my mom was in the Women's Auxiliary. My dad was an apprenticed mechanical engineer and worked on the warships that came into Liverpool Harbour ducking bombs as he made his way home every night. My mom worked sewing army uniforms. They worked amidst the war but not in the armed forces.
But then I thought about my grandfathers.
My maternal grandfather and his brother served in the British army during the war in India. My great uncle never came home. He gave his life. My grandfather came home but suffered a neurological disease as a result and died when I was three or four years old.
My paternal grandfather and his son my father's older brother were both career British army men. Both were fairly high up in rank by the time they retired I remembered. I suddenly realized that while my father was a teenager in the war his father and his brother were in the army fighting the war.

And then it struck me: “I come from an army family! “
In fact I come from an army family on both sides of my heritage! I had never really put all those connections together in my mind before!
And this poppy in my hand suddenly became a symbol of something that had affected me personally. The “symbol” had become a reality for me. I stood entranced for a moment in that knowledge and those memories.
Am I an army brat? Maybe I am.

Shirley Barker
West Guilford