To be honest, I never felt terribly patriotic growing up, but OH! how we did do up the Fourth of July with fireworks! We bought them early and we bought a lot of mostly small ones, but they lasted through the evening into the late night. There were sparklers that started at dusk that led to spinners and many, many fountains. Even early in the day, we had to have ‘snakes’, the black stinky pellets that snaked-out almost magically when lit by a match. I can’t tell you how many of those I have watched. (Mindless, but somehow, entertaining…why? LOL!)
I was born on the Maryland side of the Potomac and Washington, DC, and was brought up in Fairfax County on the Virginia side. We had the government around us; I toured the Senate and Congress, Monticello, (home of Thomas Jefferson), Mount Vernon, (George Washington’s home) and Woodlawn Plantation,(his step-granddaughter’s home), Gunston Hall, (the home of George Mason), and the like, but nothing stirred an American independent spirit in me. We always called the holiday “The Fourth of July.
When I got older and my nieces came along, we took to dressing in flag colors that day, but it meant little. Even when we went all-out with red, white and blue food and I decorated a cake to look like our flag for the Bicentennial, it was celebration for its own sake, not for our freedom.
Two things made a big change in my mindset. One was reading books and watching films of the fight for the independence from Britain of Ireland. I think maybe it was looking into the Irish side of the family and realizing how short a time ago it all happened, led to just a small question that started in my mind…should I not be more concerned with the fact that it was managed here so long before? (I know that most of my family was not even in America at the time of the Revolution. There may have been the not-proven-but-family-legend American Indian blood, which would have rather seen them ALL driven home, I’m sure!)
What really has made me aware and brought the true meaning of America and her Independence to me was the Cokie Roberts book, “Founding Mothers”. In it she brings out all the harsh reality of what the people went through to make a home in America and the hardships faced not only in every day life but in the ugliness of war. Washington, Jefferson, Addams, Franklin,(et al), are the reason we have the USA today; I take nothing from them. But the constant sacrifices, having to keep the home fires burning, or losing their homes, being left alone, being thrust into desperate situations, having to flee, being assaulted and violated by British and Hessian soldiers, loss of loved ones, illness, loss of children, (the list goes on and on), are things that the women faced and mostly faced alone, for years. The fortitude of Abigail Addams when virtually abandoned by John, (for the good of the country, you understand; the “John Addams” HBO series does not do her credit), the sacrifices and duties assumed by Martha Washington during the war, (she used parts of her dresses to make uniforms, she took wagonloads of food to the troops and more). These and the stories of many others truly makes me proudly wave the flag on what I now call Independence Day.
Do you have a time when the true meaning of Independence came to you?
Have you read “Founding Mothers”? Are there any other books you’d recommend?