I am so proud to be an American. I am unabashedly “my country, right or wrong”. As with siblings – nobody picks on us but us. My eyes well up each time I hear our patriotic songs, especially The Star Spangled Banner. America the Beautiful and God Bless America move me equally, particularly during the 7th Inning Stretch when the Yankees are playing at home.
I thrill to the sight of our flag, in all of her depictions. Whether with fife and drum as shown in “The Spirit of 76”, tattered and torn, flying over Baltimore Harbour at Fort McHenry, as Francis Scott Key imortalized her, being raised on Iwo Gima, or flying forever unfurled on the moon, she is our symbol. Doubt me? Think back to your instinctive reaction when you saw the firemen raising Old Glory through smoke and dust at the Trade Center; don’t tell me your eyes didn’t fill and a sob didn’t catch in your throat.
If I were to name my favorite year of my life, it would have to be the Bicentennial. What a glorious time!! Everywhere, all year long, everyone took part. How about that fabulous set of ads for Chevrolet? They formed a montage showing how “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” are the heartbeat of America. And the Coke commercials?? I can remember being in Frankfort, Kentucky selling circus tickets and watching the ads with tears rolling down my cheeks. I’m sure part of it was a yankee’s homesickness, but it was also the sights: rolling waves of grain, crashing oceans, mountains and the Statue of Liberty. That’s why I’ll be watching “1776” tonight, with a hot dog in one hand and watermelon juice rolling down my chin. And then (of course) fireworks. . .
Who remembers standing on the sidewalk with friends, drawing circles and figure 8’s with sparklers? We owned a house for a time that was across from a vacant lot where each year, on the 4th, a group of local men would make a fireworks show for the neighborhood, while the Fire Department looked the other way.
My husband was involved for several years with a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors. From early summer through the middle of autumn each of my children’s childhood years, we camped out in Moreau and Schoharie. I made our garb, including my husband’s coat. I learned to cook over an open fire, something I truly enjoyed. We used to joke about the “authentic early American spices” in the stew, which turned out to be onion soup mix from a packet! We all made friends and grew together as a family. To this day, crisp October mornings and the smell of woodsmoke immediately transport me back through time and space to those dear times.
During all three of my pregnancies, we went to Ticonderoga, Saratoga and Bennington while my husband played his bagpipes with the Albany New York Police Pipes and Drums. Parade after parade, some with fireworks, some with picnics, bound us to the sounds, smells and tastes of July 4th. The skirl of the pipes are some of the girls’ earliest aural memories, and we all come to a dead stop and “take point” whenever we catch so much as a hint of their distinctive music, even miles away.
Regardless of politics, or disagreements, the United States of America is still the country whose shores everyone is dying to reach. We still stand as the beacon of freedom to most of the world. Our systems aren’t perfect, we have an awful lot of difficult problems to still resolve, but we are a family. Whether despised cousins, beloved sisters or heroic brothers, we are all morsels floating in this amazing melting pot that is America, represented by our beloved flag – long may she wave!