It seems that at this time of year I just can’t keep from humming Yankee Doodle Dandy, thinking of apple pie and the good old red, white and blue.
I guess the spirit of celebrating the Fourth of July is infused in my blood. I seem to be all the old cliques rolled into one. Born in the Midwest, I am one of the legions of baby boomers, the product of the “greatest generation.”
When you watch an old movie about World War II you are reminded of a time our country pulled together with one united spirit. Most of my uncles fought in that war. I was raised listening to their heroic stories. When I was a child downtown Detroit held a huge parade every Fourth of July. To me it seemed to last forever. Each year I took my small American Flag to the parade, and I would wave it emthusiaticially. After the parade there was a large family picnic where you stuffed yourself with potato salad, hot dogs, baked beans, corn on the cob ,watermelon, and, of course, apple pie.
Then we would head towards the lake to watch the spectacular fireworks show. It didn’t matter to me that it was sticky hot with humidity at 99 percent and that the mosquitos were having me for an evening snack, we were celebrating the birthday of the United States of America. It was my country’s birthday.
My memories of our country’s big 200th birthday in 1976 are vivid and happy ones. Determined to get my family involved in something special, and show our patriotic spirit, I organized a week long celebration at the elementary school my children were attending. Complete with a museum, speakers, and a fashion show, the week was topped off with a musical I wrote about our country’s history called “Time.” I was very pleased the event was honored by the San Jose Bicentennial Committee , as well as have my play placed in the Washington Archives.
It was great fun for me to work with the cast of 88 students. I was happy that helping to bring to life part of their country’s history made a positive impression on them. When the choir of kindergarten through sixth grade students sang their happy and loud version of “This Land Is My Land” I felt fireworks in my soul.
Three years ago I was fortunate to be chosen to travel to Washington D.C. to represent Merced County for MCAG. In between all the scheduled meetings and briefings, I was able to soak up some of our rich history. While sitting in the Senate chambers I thought about our founders. I wondered how it must have felt that fateful July 2, 1776 when the American Revolution ended and the Second Constitutional congress voted for the Resolution of Independence. Then, after two days of what I am sure was energetic debate they completed our Declaration of Independence on July 4.
The words written by John Adams to his wife Abigail at that time have proven to be prophetic.
“This will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be honored in 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 celebrated with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires. And illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever.”
Grover and I make a point each year to watch the Capital concerts shown on PBS. These annual presentations are a blend of music and readings which ends with the spectacular fireworks over the Potomac.
Television, even with today’s amazing technology, can only give a partial taste of the majesty of those reflections of red, white and blue on the timeless waters. I was able to see that gala in my youth while visiting relatives in Alexandria , Virginia. A that time when I could never have conceived of the kind of tragedy that recently occurred in that fair city. Back when I was visiting my uncle was working at the Pentagon. I have vivid memories of visiting there at that time. They flooded my mind as I watched along with the rest of the Nation the tragedy of 911.
Somehow anything that happens to our country, or anyone in our country, affects me. I feel a part of the whole. I think that is what the term United States of America means. We are all connected, united from our roots and it is because of that I believe July 4th should be everyone’s birthday party.
Diana Ingram Thurston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.