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Independence Day

July 4th dawns hot and bright, with no rain clouds in sight, yet. Rain expected later today.

Encouraged by the application of nutrients, the kitchen garden boasts tiny green tomatoes, one cucumber, greening parsley and basil, and a few baby peppers. 

Here in the United States, some consider this day a solemn time to contemplate the ideals upon which our country was founded. For many, it’s a day of barbeques, parties, marching bands, patriotic speeches, and trimmings of red, white, and blue.

As with most holidays, Frank and I like to spend this day alone together in blessed quiet with our books, journals, and Baroque music, preferably Bach.

But the thought of marching bands takes me back to scenes of childhood, to the times of the street fairs and parades of that village where I grew up. “Pop. 100” read the signs at both ends of “town.”  Of course the many farm families for miles around came in to talk and trade, so the sidewalks hummed with activity.

That vibrant community no longer exists as such. A few houses remain, but not many, and most of the once-busy commercial enterprises pulled out or closed. The old-timers moved to larger towns with supermarkets, big-box stores, and gas stations.

And a community it was, a fairy-tale town, destined like Brigadoon to bloom a brief moment, then disappear. At least once a month we met at the school, which also served as a community center for boisterous sing-a-longs from The Golden Book of Favorite Songs.

Each of us would call out a favorite song in turn, and my mother would pound out a stirring introduction on the rattling piano to get us started. Rounds and songs with hand motions. Stephen F. Foster songs, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Flow Gently Sweet Afton, Oh Danny Boy, The Spanish Cavalier, and on and on late into the night.

For Independence Day, we often had a little marching band, contests of all sorts, and always lots of watermelon, home-cooked potato salad, baked beans, laughter, and camaraderie.

One year for our entry in the parade down Main Street, a few friends and I created a “marching tableau” of the famous painting, Spirit of ’76, about the American Revolution by Archibald MacNeal Willard.

There was no fife, but I played “The Star Spangled Banner” on my flute and wore a ketchup-smeared “bandage” around my forehead, two friends played their drums, and someone behind us carried a flag with 13 stars.

The quiet village has all but disappeared, but the sweet memories remain. I raise my metaphorical glass to the spirit of community.


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