The other day I was in our storage house and came upon an entire corner of a room filled with everything red, white and blue. I paused as I surveyed all the Fourth of July decorations we had accumulated over the years. Flags of various sizes, patriotic napkins and door decorations, festive dishes and serving pieces, Uncle Sam hats and just about anything else you can imagine were stacked neatly from floor to ceiling.
I picked up a few of them for a closer look. Each item I held in my hands brought a memory with it of a particular Fourth of July party or a table setting and decorations I had shown during my television years. Some of the more tattered and torn decorations evoked very special memories for me.
My mother’s birthday is July 5 and we always merged the two holidays into one celebration. My mind wandered back in time and remembered a few of the “over the top” red, white and blue birthday cakes I whipped up for her. I smiled as I attended a few of Mother’s birthday parties in my mind.
The Lee Greenwood’s song, “Proud to be an American,” rang out from a nearby cassette player at almost every party. Mother always loved trying to remember all the words to “Yankee Doodle Dandy” when she randomly blurted out the words a cappella. Toy horns were blown and flags waved as we celebrated the two holidays. After Mother died, so did our elaborate patriotic celebrations.
I must confess that for most of my life I’ve viewed the Fourth of July as just a holiday that begged for cookouts, potato chips, homemade ice cream and fattening desserts. It has only been in the last couple of decades that I really thought about the importance of our freedom.
I was 40 years old before I saw the Statue of Liberty in person. Flying into New York City, I leaned over another passenger to see the lady holding the torch in the harbor with the twin towers in the background. The very next year I was staring at a television set in horror on Sept. 11, 2001. It didn’t seem real. I thought I was watching a movie, but I wasn’t! The wars that always seemed so far away suddenly weren’t that far at all. We were all changed forever on that day.
A few years ago, I drew the Statue of Liberty. Over the years, I have painted and drawn the American flag many times. As I rendered each crisp star and stripe silhouetted against the dark blue background, I had plenty of time to ponder the price that has been paid for our freedom. It isn’t a one-time deal to have freedom. It is a constant and ongoing challenge to keep it.
Today, with each article I read or news show I watch, I feel our freedom is in jeopardy. The wars are closer to home. The Fourth of July is more important to me now than ever. Blood is still being shed and people are dying daily. We can see the horrific events playing out in real time on our televisions, smart phones and tablets. It’s not a reality show — it is real!
In a couple of days, as we are eating too much food, swimming in a pool or lake and celebrating with family and friends, we need to remember those who fought and continue to fight so that we can have the freedom to do what we wish.
There is no doubt that today I see the Fourth of July as much more than just a time to have a party. I see it as a time to reflect and give thanks for our freedom. Without it, we would have nothing!