The first thing we did on the Fourth of July was to put up the flag.
When Grandpa bought his house, one of the first things he bought was a really big flag-- and a wooden staff and a bracket. The flag had 48 stars on it. Alaska and Hawaii hadn't been added yet. He nailed the bracket to the first pillar on the front porch near the railing.
So every holiday-but especially on the Fourth of July-we had our little ceremony. He with his khaki work pants and straw summer hat, me with my braids and jumpers-we'd take the flag and the pole out of the closet.
On the porch I would unroll it from the staff and hand it to him. He would take it from me and with great ceremony insert it into the bracket. Then he would take off his hat and place it over his heart and I would place my hand on my heart and we would both stand at attention.
Before every baseball game began on the old television, Grandpa would hop to his feet and stand upright, again the hand over his heart, while the "Star Spangled Banner" played at the faraway stadium. I would do the same.
When I was well into my teens, it was easier to be casual about ceremony. I pointed out to him, as the national anthem began for yet another televised game, that it wasn't necessary to stand in one's own house, only when at a public place when the anthem was played. He looked at me with a solemn frown and said, "In MY house, you do."
Grandpa died when I was 17. The next time the flag was put out, I stood alone at attention. I married, and moved, and inherited that flag. That 48-star flag served us well for many years, but it became threadbare.
Just in time for the country's Bicentennial a new flag arrived-a gift from a son. The old one was retired to a special drawer and the new one-one star for each of the 13 original colonies-- still is featured front and center at our house.
We have other flags in the family. One was on the coffin of my husband's brother. Another one we bought when we visited the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor. American flags are raised, lowered and recorded all the time.
We gave that flag to our son in the service. He takes it with him wherever he goes. It has been to some far-flung places. The latest: Iraq.
So why am I telling you about flags when Flag Day was in June? Because the Fourth of July is about America, and you can't get all of America on one flag. You can't get Ellis Island, Plymouth Rock, Lewis & Clark, the Civil War, or the Washington Monument all on it
Because you can't get going to church, school days, the Depression, babies in strollers, movie stars, houses being built and being torn down, cars, freeways, planes and airports all on it.
Because you can't get hot dogs, baseball games, barbeques, beaches, boats, cruising the streets, getting a tan, or fireworks all on it, either.
So we have a shorthand for all of the things that make up America. We have an all-purpose flag that stands for all those things and more. It is our Declaration and Constitution on a flagstaff.
When we see it we get -or should get-goosebumps. Because that flag is US. The U. S. of A. America. Home Sweet Home.
Sometimes I'm not so sure those signers wanted us to wear our flag on the seat of our pants. Sometimes I'm not so sure they meant for us to drive with it hanging from a car's aerial until it is a shredded rag.
Sometimes I'm not so sure about those weird ideas and strange people I read about in the paper. Sometimes I wonder if government is quite what those signers envisioned long ago.
But I think they might be pleased that we have done pretty well with the part about "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."
So, have a Happy Fourth of July. Enjoy. Have a Hot Dog. Drive Safely, Kiss and Hug. Love one Another.
Watch the fireworks and "ooooh" and "ahhhhh" I think that's what they had in mind, back in 1776.
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