It’s one of those days. I am reaching into my box of memorabilia, building paper bridges between the now and then. As I turn away from this little blue box—and from the scanner that transforms a printed image into a digital one—my eye catches another image, a framed poster on the wall of my study. And, once again, I become carried away, absorbed in the thoughts these two collector’s items—one British, one American—help to conjure, rather than in the appreciation of either. Besides, I have since retreated into our backyard to bask in the sunlight of a glorious spring afternoon. There’s time for all that, today. It is, after all, a holiday. Just what kind, though, I begin to wonder and allow the question to irritate me like ants running away with the picnic.
Now, you might say that a holiday by any other name smells just as sweet; but, if you ask me, “Bank Holiday” stinks. That is what the British insist on calling—or at any rate, are reduced to calling—some of their red letter days, including this one. Granted, considering the state of our financial system or individual finances, we might well be sitting round in a brown study, ruminating on our latter days in the red; but aren’t there any cultural cornerstones, historical milestones, or ancestral gravestones we ought to have our mind’s eye on?
We receive little encouragement from the dates as marked in our calendars. Here in Britain, we’ve got May Bank Holidays, and Spring Bank Holidays, and August Bank Holidays—and none of us are exactly laughing all the way to the nearest money-lending institution. Sure, we are not being pestered with notices demanding our immediate attention, but we don’t express our gratitude for not getting any bills by calling this a Post Office Holiday.
Not that all holidays are mere occasions for slipping into something comfortable or taking it off again at the beach; but we wouldn’t go so far, surely, as to declare Black Tuesday a day of observance by marking the anniversary of Wall Street laying an egg with a leisurely pancake breakfast. Sure, the banks are closed today; but is that what we are asked to celebrate?
How fortunate are those across the pond who can do as they please on Memorial Day. They may be decorating cakes instead of graves, but at least there is enough of a clue in the name to invite contemplation, encourage research or inspire gratitude. There is far more of a chance of drawing a blank if you’ve got nothing but “Bank” to draw on. If no consensus can be arrived at, if no joining of hands or thoughts is to be imposed, let any Bank Holiday become a blank one—and place on each celebrant the burden of making it meaningful . . .