“And so proudly it waved”

June 28, 2010

I’ve been wracking my brain lately to try to uncover some childhood memories of the Fourth of July, but I’m still pretty blank in that department. I have no idea what we did on our Fourth of July holidays in the 50’s and 60’s. I’m guessing there wasn’t a lot going on–at least, not out on our farm, anyway.

But thinking of the Fourth does make me think of some more generic summer things….like running after the plow behind my father’s old Oliver tractor when he was getting the ground ready for the garden. That must’ve been in the spring, but I have memories of it being hot enough for us to be running around without much on (nobody could see us since we didn’t have any neighbors close by). I can feel the freshly dug dirt, and I can see the worms, newly exposed from their underground worm-work, and I can hear my sister and me squealing and laughing as we tried to catch up with Daddy.

…..I can remember the fireworks at the Harrington Fair, the site of the Delaware State Fair, which was always our big “trip” that we looked forward to each summer. (There was no vacation like so many people have, where a trip is scheduled for a week or two away, so any day trip away from the farm was huge, and was something we all looked forward to.) I can remember the American flag cleary, as it exploded and formed right in front of our eyes over the grandstands at the fair grounds, and thought that was what all fireworks looked like. I have since learned that that is not so. I have only seen fireworks that matched that fairground summer splendor one other time — at Niagara Falls. There was an American flag there as well. You just never forget that.

….Nor will I ever forget the patriotic concert performed by the Air Force Band that we serendipitously happened upon in Williamsburg as we vacationed with our French girls, Magalie and Annabelle, when our own girls were teenagers. The caliber of the playing was unequaled, as far as I could tell, and I was impressed enough to come out of the snit that I’d been in when I had “known” I was right about something, but didn’t end up getting my own way. I’d been outvoted, and forced into another activity–the band concert, which caused us to find ourselves in an open air setting where this band was playing. And it was there that I was transformed. I can see the little old man, a WWII vet, beside his little old wife, as the 80-something, or maybe he was 90-something–gingerly tugged on the flag next to where he was standing, as “Anchors Aweigh” was played. He pulled himself upright, and stood erect, hand over his heart, eyes straight ahead, hand holding onto that outstretched flag as he waved it ever so slightly, until the last bar was done. I, too, was done, when I saw that, although I actually barely saw it, since my own eyes were full of tears. Annabelle had asked me before the “patriotic concert,” “What does patriotism mean?” After that display, I turned to her and said, “That’s what patriotism means.”

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