This is my column which ran on July 5th in the Princeton Times.
Flags, Drum Rolls and A Closed Throat
I love the Fourth of July celebrations because it is a time to get together with friends and family and celebrate that we still live in the greatest country in the world. As I set out the flags each year, I remind my children that many died so that we can be celebrating in our own front yard. They were not too impressed until their oldest brother spent one Fourth serving in Iraq. It made a difference when they personally knew someone serving his country. We had a great chat about living in America.
I started with the pledge of Allegiance. We talked about what the words meant and how some of them were difficult to understand. Thankfully my kids still say the pledge each morning in school.
After discussing the pledge, the youngest one “proved” that he could say it all the way through, we talked about how songs tell stories and that there are many songs which tell the story of America.
I started with one of my favorites,
“You’re a Grand Old Flag
You’re a high flying Flag
And forever in peace may you wave…”
We discuss how flags are symbols to gather people together for a united purpose. They want to sing it again but I quickly launch into,
“Oh Beautiful, for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountains majesty…”
Here, we got stuck on a discussion of mountains and if they were really purple or not. We finally moved on when I belted out,
“This Land is your land,
This land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters…”
They reminded me that we spent two weeks on South Padre Island at the tip of Texas and that we swam in the Gulf coast. I agreed with them and reminded that how important sun block is. They groaned and asked for more songs.
I tried to remember all of the words to “My Country ‘tis of Thee,” but couldn’t so we looked them up on google. We sang all morning and had a great time. I really think they were trying not to have to clean up after last night’s Fourth of July celebration but I also thought it was an important discussion. Eventually the first grader shouts that he remembers that we always sing at the football games. I agreed.
“Sing that one mom,” he chants.
“That one, I can’t sing,” I told him.
“Why not? Why not?”
I tried to explain how I could stand up and place my hand over my heart and listen to the drum’s roll as the flag waved. I could even begin the song, but by the time “What so proouuudly we hailed…” came along my throat closed up and I had to swallow real hard to keep from crying. I listened to the rest of the song with a quivering chin. Not a squeak came forth.
“Mom, that is just so weird,” from the teenager.
I nodded agreement and said, “I know, but that is how strongly I feel about living in America. When I see the flag being raised and hear The Star Spangled Banner, I get chills and remember how fortunate we are to be living here.”
They nodded and drifted out to the porch. Perhaps I overwhelmed them, or perhaps they needed time to absorb what I had had a life time to figure out.
We live in the greatest country in the world.
I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July weekend and I hope you remember singing the songs that helped us remember how blessed we are to live in America.