A State of Mind and Not a Day

wounded soldier nurse memorialThe Fourth of July is never only the Fourth. It’s also a state of mind.

When I was young, people dressed up for The Fourth. Back then you wouldn’t dare reproduce Old Glory’s design in clothing  and so…. you improvised: You could don a pair of blue shorts; then your top could be white; then the red would come from your socks or shoes – sporty Keds if you had a pair –  or, if you felt bold enough and could take the teasing, a bright red scarf like the one the Lone Ranger wore.

Anyway, that’s how I remember July Fourth the summer I woke up inside my life.

I say ‘woke up’: I mean when I first noticed I was living it, which  happened as I was walking my decorated if slightly fender-dented two-wheeler to the big Bike Parade being held on the Boys’ Side of the playground of the Oakland School.

“I’m nine years old.” I remember thinking.  “It’s almost summer. And I’m walking all alone on the sidewalk.”

That year, as with all the years of my childhood, July Fourth brought out talk at the family table about the  latest war.

There was only that one war we kids heard about then and it was Big War, the ‘Good War’, the Second World War as they called it in our history books which seemed to me to gloss over the sad fact of the war just before it, the war that was meant to end all wars.

Our grownups spoke of this last war only, the gasoline rations and the saving of tinfoil and so on.

To us kids though it was just one other thing that had happened to THEM, those inscrutable adults, those foreign beings. It was a thing as far removed from our modern lives as the gramophone.

And yet.

And yet.

Somehow we could still feel its enormity, mostly from the things we came upon: That trunk in the cellar filled with Army Green trousers and tunics stiff now with age.That picture of the day it all ended and there was our mom, young, along with half the town riding on top of their cars and laughing  and throwing their hats in the air.

But then there were those other pictures that my sister and I found in the wooden chest buried under our uncle’s tool bench. He had presided over a military court in Sardinia as we later learned, and the pictures were of dead civilians stuffed into narrow raw wood coffins in their blood-splattered clothes, all staring sightlessly upward. His job had been to bring their civilian killers to justice.

“What was this war?” we asked each other.  “What happened in it?“

Something big, we knew that much. And maybe we even sensed that this ‘something’ was what purchased the safe and happy years we were currently enjoying, I’m not sure.

It’s the Fourth now, the day some call the nation’s one true Holy Day.  We should pause at least for a few moments during it and ponder the many sacrifices it commemorates.

6 thoughts on “A State of Mind and Not a Day

  1. I guess we have all lost our way as far as holidays go. Extravagant store sales, a day off from work, or school. A day to PARTAAAYYY. As the generations go on, we lose a little more of the meaning and what the meanings entail. The lives lost to have this day is staggering and that’s what I’m going to think about today. I’m not going to let it take me over mind you, I’m just not going to ignore it.
    This was a nice one ‘T’, thanks.
    Happy 4th to you and your Family…enjoy the pyrotechnic displays!

  2. This reminds me of the importance of my maroon 3-speed bike. My crepe paper wouldn’t stay in place and fell like socks but the fun of having small balloons tied to the front fork-bar, slapping the spokes for a cool sound.

    Independence Day, yes. It was for me too. My bike and I were “free at last.” You meet the most wonderful people riding around. One sunny day I met a girl who had had a woven basket attached to her front handlebars, white sneakers, and about a 4-stitches scar on the front of one ankle.

    I too remember the sacrifices, and am thankful for brave deeds – although I thought I was brave in my own little way to speak to that girl that behind the handlebar basket. I hope she had a wonderful Fourth of July.

  3. I remember well the wonderful days of Oakland School and the cinder lot for our Keds and PF Flyers to run over. Our parents and grandparents kept us focused on the great sacrifice of WWI and WWII and the freedom we benefitted from, as a result of their service. It was a time of great appreciation for we we have and we celebrated it well. I remember the parades and Grandpa donning proudly his over seas cap and marching in the parade. We will never forget. I hope others never do either. Happy 4th.

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