The Fourth of July is always memorable

What did you do to celebrate our country’s 242nd birthday yesterday? I went to hear a patriotic concert by Dallas Winds, wearing my Fourth of July T-shirt.
My daughter bought it for me when she made her first visit to Dallas with her first child. I rented a crib for that baby — not even near a year old then — who will turn 29 this coming November. We found it in Olla Podrida. Who else remembers that wonderful, multilevel shopping experience that repurposed an old airplane hangar? But it was those multilevels that ultimately killed it — no way to make the place handicapped-accessible.
So, I’ve worn that shirt every Fourth of July for 28 years and still counting. After all: How much wear does a shirt get if you put it on only once annually? Of course, it’s more than a bit faded from its original fire-engine red, but the great little “portraits” of everything patriotic are still clearly visible. I had a red, white and blue handbag that wore out much faster.
For me, the best memories of the Fourth of July always involve fireworks. I love them. A most unusual Fourth came when I was living in the Chicago area; the weather turned so cold that year on that day, we actually had to wear winter coats to go outside and watch them. (I decided then that it was no longer necessary to put away “seasonal” clothes.) Here in Dallas, Fred and I tried everything firework-ey over our 34 years together: We went to Fair Park — to Rangers games — to occupy chaises in friends’ excellently located driveways with our bodies stretched out and our heads lifted upward. But the best was always watching Shakespeare in the Park with fireworks lighting up in sky in the background. Now, I’m content to stay indoors, listening to the noise and seeing the flashes outside my front windows, courtesy of the kids whose parents still allow them to set off things that are at least potentially dangerous. When there were cats in our house, they always chose to hide under a bed after the first bang. (Truth told: Sometimes I feel like doing the same.)
But my most memorable Fourth was when I was still at home with my parents, still young enough to want to go places with them on holidays like this one. That year we went to a big park and sat in the bleachers for a fantastic aerial show, which was followed by an even more fantastic show of “ground works,” something I’d never even heard of before and have never seen since. Can you imagine a huge American flag spread out in front of you, just lighting up before your eyes? Does anyone do that any longer? Or are those displays so much more dangerous than the dangerous-enough “normal” fireworks that an end has been put to them? Whatever: That was one fabulous, truly unforgettable Fourth, for the flag lasted much longer than any of those ephemeral things that fly and die so quickly over our heads.
All patriotic holidays seem to have dimmed in recent years. I remember public flag-raisings that attracted crowds on Flag Day. I remember Armistice Day marking the end of World War I every year until the ’60s, when it became Veterans Day, recalling all wars. I remember when Memorial Day was Decoration Day, when people took flowers to cemeteries for the graves of their fallen war heroes.
I’m grateful that our Jewish War Veterans posts now put flags on the graves of our departed vets, but not many people remember to wear poppies any more — one of our dying legacies from that first World War. We may never fully recover from what Vietnam and the wars that followed did to our country’s vision of those who fought and died in them, but I hope we will forever honor our national birthday, and that there will always be celebratory flowers, flags and fireworks.

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