I'll admit straight out we didn't go to the dawn service. While the men were at the pub watching the basketball the night before, Barb and I had agreed that if it was raining we would stay home, and I went to bed praying for rain and then feeling guilty for praying for rain and then praying for rain again. When we awoke, it wasn't raining (I'm an atheist; I wasn't surprised) but we discovered the car was blocked in so, instead of braving the Dunedin wind, watched the coverage of the Auckland service, the elderly veterans shivering in the rain while Vincent and I peered at the TV from bed, me occasionally watching with my eyes closed. I don't feel good about it.... but I don't entirely regret it either.
At a more cordial hour, we went to Dunedin's cenotaph to lay our poppies. Not being in a rush to get back to bed or into the museum as I usually am, I had time to look at the wreaths, which were beautiful. These were my favourites; the papier mache and crepe paper job I imagined a troop of kids making together, the old-style trumpet poppy wreath, and the wreath of leaves placed in honour of the battalion of which Vincent's grandfather was a part.
Usually, shivering at the dawn service in Auckland, I get completely carried away with the atmosphere and the setting and my own imaginings of goodbye dances and early morning departures and letters from the trenches and men who didn't come back. This year, in the comfort of bed, I just thought about the men who went and did come back; what they came back to, what they brought back with them, and what the day really means to them. I thought about them at the cenotaph, and how many would be there next year.
Then we walked up Baldwin Street, and all I could think about was not having a heart attack in front of Vincent's parents.