"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfire and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
John Adams, in a July 3, 1776 letter to Abigail, after the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 2
When I was in elementary school what I most like to read were biographies of historical people. There was a shelf full of them in the school library. They were bound in orange cloth. The print was kid sized, the stories easy to read and digest. Founding fathers and patriots George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere. Founding mothers and patriots in their own right, Pocahontas, Martha Washington, and Abigail Adams. Betsy Ross designing a five point star by folding paper then making the first flag was one of my all time favorites. I gobbled these stories up like M&M's. They help lay the foundation for my love of reading, interest in reading and pride in all things American.
Sometimes I wonder what side I would have taken had I lived in those early days of our country. Would I have been my typical Chicken Little, not wanting to go against the King? Would I have been willing to forgo a cup of tea for the notion of liberty? Would I have stood on the street corner cheering the rag tag army of patriots? I'd like to think I would have been on the side of freedom.
But this is today and I am who I am. A girl who stands and puts her hand over her heart when a flag passes by. A girl who cries when the Marine Corps band plays Stars and Stripes Forever. A girl who is grateful for each and every sacrifice made by the men and women in uniform. A girl who prays that the day will come when mothers and fathers all over the world will no longer have to bury their sons and daughters - that peace will be the song our children will sing.
Yesterday our neighborhood held its annual 4th of July parade. As parades go, it was kind of a sad affair. But a few intrepid patriots and their dogs braved the heat to join in a march around the block. Dad had already opted out of leading the parade on his bight red "Jazzy" motorized wheelchair, but he said he'd try to be awake to watch from the driveway. Being awake and being ready for the festivities are two different things. He moves pretty slow these days. I was alternately watching for signs of the fire engine and helping him to get dressed.
In what can only be called perfect timing, he zipped up his britches as the lead fire engine neared the front of our house. I asked that they stop for just a minute. That's when Dad rounded the corner from the hall, parked himself in the doorway and waved to everyone as if the parade was just for him. It might be said by some cynics that the two gentlemen who came to shake his hand were just doing what politicians do. But I think different. I think they looked a the man in the wheelchair, keenly assessed the situation, took note of the fact that he is old enough to be a member of the "greatest generation" and decided to do the right thing. They came to the door and shook Dad's hand. Dad didn't stand, or salute, but I am pretty sure he threw his shoulders back in the way he was taught at the Naval Academy in order to be as fully at attention as one can be at 93 years old. It was one of those times when I was filled with pride and gratitude.
Then this morning, I was witness to another. There is a quiet, unassuming young man who attends our church. He has been coming since he was just a toddler. I've been proud of him for years as he's led the procession with the cross. Tears fell down my cheeks today, as he represented his ROTC drill team by carrying the flag into church. In his full uniform, gleaming spit shined shoes, slacks pressed with a crisp pleat, ribbons evenly spaced on his chest thrown out with just the right mix of pride and attention to detail. He was a site to see.
However you celebrate this holiday, I hope that sometime during the day you will stop for a moment to honor the Declaration signers and the vision they had of a country where freedom was not just a word, but a way of life. In the words of John Adams in that letter to his wife: [I am well aware of the Toil, and Blood, and Treasure that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.] Yet, through all the Gloom, I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory.
Rays of ravishing Light and Glory .... amen.
Wishing for you a day of hot dogs, apple pie and fireworks,