Let’s celebrate the Fourth of July and put our pain aside for today. Is that okay with all of you?
Is there any other American holiday that brings back more memories than the Fourth of July? Probably Christmas with all its festivities, lights and symbolism of Christianity;certainly Thanksgiving because of the wonderful food, family and history but the Fourth is special. For many of us it is the holiday that symbolizes the freedom we have come to take for granted. Its celebration during the warm summer month, the long run of daylight and the National pride it represents; all come together to create memories.
Here in the Northwest, and even more so in the state of Alaska, the long daylight hours stall the firework celebrations until late in the evening. The little children try to stay awake for the bursts of glory but don’t always make it. In our community there are always firework displays over the Columbia River that can be seen from all over town because most of us live on hills. The noise and reverberations hurt some of the dog’s ears and many of us know what it is to medicate our poor critters. The cat’s usually hide under the house or in their “safe place,” coming out when it’s over and the smoke clears.
Don’t we all have memories of scratchy moist grass beneath us as we wore shorts or cut off jeans, a hotdog spilling mustard all over our summer shirts or perhaps a drippy ice cream cone filled with homemade ice cream? Are you old enough to remember cranking the old-fashioned ice cream makers filled with salt and ice? I remember the porch at my uncle’s house in Arkansas when it was filled with a dozen ice cream makers, from all of the neighbors, each with a different flavor to savor. That was ice cream free of additives and chemicals that you really had to work for. The kids would start out cranking the handle only to find it too hard as the ice cream solidified and Dad would have to take over. Do you remember how hot the metal stick became after you lit a sparkler? Do you remember that neighborhood boy who always set off his firecrackers when and where he wasn’t supposed to? I suspect I’m married to one of them.
Those memories always come to mind when this holiday comes around each year. For many, the flying of the flag is sweet; for others it is a symbol of sorrow filled pride. So many families have lost men and women in the armed forces, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. Others were widowed from the sacrifice that freedom demands, leaving them alone to rear their children. So much sacrifice has been given to protect our way of life here in this great country. Those extreme sacrifices should dwarf our pain or at least put it into perspective, don’t you think?
The symbol of the Fourth is, of course, our National flag. We have had many flags throughout history. We have special flags that fly such as the American War Mothers Flag that has flown on Armistice Day, November 11 since 1926. Originally it was a woolen flag but was replaced in 1970 with a synthetic fabric one, consisting of a white field with a red border. At the top is an 11-inch blue star for the 4,696,039 who served in World War 1. Across the center of the flag, in 4-inch letters are the words, “United States Service Flag.” At the bottom is an 11-inch gold star for the 60,672 who gave their lives in that war. This flag is flown at 11 minutes after 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 and flies until sundown where it flies beneath the National flag.
The flag most of us fly from our porches, schools and public buildings has thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternated with six white ones. The stripes represent the thirteen original colonies and the stars represent the 50 states. The colors of the flag are, of course, symbolic also. The color red symbolizes Hardiness and Valor; white symbolizes Purity and Innocence and blue signifies Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice. My Fourth of July wish for you, my dear friends, is to remember with gratitude the great country we are privileged to live in and praise our founding fathers for their sacrifice as it was passed down to our children, husbands, fathers and mothers. May we all rememberon this Fourth of July.