Thursday, July 4, 2013



I’m of a mind that the sidewalk down our blocks becomes once a year the Brigadoon enclave of all the extant folding-aluminum-lawn-chairs-with-woven-strap-seats.   Those backyard and beach mavens of the past are all stored somewhere special for the rest of the year, I think, those symbols of cookouts and cocktails and coolers of beer, all silent and taking their ease in the dusty dark like dollar-store warehouses of Las Vegas neon or Mardi Gras Krewe.


Folks line up at ten, I imagine, for when we arrive at five-til-time, they’re all established, these partakers of patriotism and local flavor:  chairs and umbrellas and coolers and flags, with children in colors with flags on their clothes, their hats, speared through ponytails and beltloops, children in costumes, children in tiny Tigger and Barney and Tinkerbell seats of their own, awaiting the mystical Rainfall of Tootsie Rolls, and the scent of Coppertone and cigarettes wafts on the breeze. 



The approaching thrum of powerful engines heralds the motorcycle brigade---a dozen strong, and each the ideal of Protect and Serve, these muscular, fit Ken-men in badges with their Police Poster perfection.   They turn and swoop and figure-eight in a ballet of bikes, with the noise and the smoke but a part of their glamour and power.


Flags and floats and walkers in slogan-T’s, honoring or hawking their group or church or candidate, and every red convertible not downtown eases by, with its colorful banner and a smiling candidate or queen-of-something waving at the crowd. 
    Bands herald their own arrival, with the cadence and the thoom of drums stirring the heartbeat from two blocks back, while the two vintage John Deeres and four Allis Chalmers make their elephant-walk past.



And the proud, strong soldiers---we’ve seen them go from butternut to khaki to deep olive to green camo to brown-and-tan and back to the almost butternut/beige, with their boots morphing from spit-shined black to paler-than-buckskin suede.   But the faces---those faces of strength and courage---they never change, and our hearts kvell at just the thought of them.



The bands, unlike this blessedly unseasonal day today, are gleaming with the shine of brass and braid, and faces almost always glistening with trickles of sweat beneath their shakos and baseball caps.   I cannot imagine a parade without sweat---it’s like the life-energy of all that hustle and stomp and breath-it-takes-to-play-five-songs-while-marching-twelve-blocks in July.



I can see the faces, hear the music, feel my heart stirred by the day and the beat---all that martial rhythm in the sense-memory harking to battlefields ago.   The old Fort Cannon, timed perfectly with the 1812, gives a chilling déjà vu to Lexington and Bunker Hill, Merrimac and Monitor and Maine, to Gettysburg and Vicksburg and all the other places-of-peril in which brave soldiers perished or persevered.  Just that sound---that deep deadly boom which rattles our windows from a mile away on occasion---that’s an eternal memory on this remembering day.   



I sit out here in the calm cool shade of the patio, coffee in hand and a wall at my back, on this most-Un-July day, with the echoes and the blasts and the thrums and cannon booms, and fireworks for blocks around punctuating this two-hundred-and-thirty-seventh anniversary.  My reflections swirl the images like water---the skies and the earth and the smoke and the red-white-and-blue, and all the sounds whirling in a long-ago memory of reveille and charge and Taps.



From my way-through-the trees remove, all the experience filters through as a brave pentimento on the page, as surreal as glimpses of red coats through the trees of an April-morning fog, and it’s real enough, for this day.

It’s generations, a handshake, a passing of a torch.  And I’ve heart-seen it one more time.


No Sweat.


Southern Lady said...

Thank you for taking us to your parade, Rachel. I felt as if I was right there, waving my flag, my heart filled with pride and love for our country ... and tears on my cheeks when those soldiers passed by. May God bless them all ... and may God Bless America!

jeanne, backyard neighbor said...

Hello Rachel, This is a lovely tribute to the 4th of July. When I saw the Uncle Sam in costume, it took me back many years when my Uncle Benny, 6'7", was always Uncle Sam for the fourth of July parade. My grandmother made his costume and his picture would always be in the paper the next day. When my children were small and Uncle Benny came to visit one time, my five year old Diana, after looking at him bend over to get in the front door said, "Is that God?" We have laughed at that for years. Your photos and text as always, was a joy to read. I am glad you had a lovely 4th to enjoy. Ours was WET!!! All celebration plans had to be delayed until Sat.

I am laughing at myself for not realizing the pic was the BIG Chill cast. I loved that movie. I do recall the kitchen scene very well.

Thank you as always for the sweetest comments. You are such a dear person and you say the nicest things. You do know I feel exactly the same about you. I mean it. Smile.
Time to start the venison spaghetti sauce for supper. My grands love it. Me too.

Love, Jeanne

racheld said...

Thank you both for coming by!! You know it's such a bright moment to see your names appear (or your addresses on the sidebar counter).

These were mostly memories of past FOURTHS, parade days and such wonderful vignettes of the moments. All these pictures were from several years ago, just to mostly concentrate on the soldiers, past and present.

I don't know the older man in the elaborate uniform, but doesn't he have the most wonderful, timeless face? He really has a presence.

And Jeanne---Diana's comment just made me giggle! That would be a tale told MANY times in OUR family, especially on Independence Day.

And Venison Spaghetti! Haven't made in in YEARS. We always had ours mixed with pork trimmings & fat for "ground beef" for things like meatloaf and sauces, and with beef fat for hamburger patties. (and I wonder if I'm the only person to ever cook a deer NECK in aluminum foil with that Mushroom-Soup/Lipton-Onion-Soup roast recipe). It makes wonderful sandwiches, and was always fun to just set down for "picking."

Why is it that YOU TWO---Janie and Jeanne---always stir up such memories?

OH, Gosh...I just read the "Is that God?" again and went off in another fit of chuckles.

Kim S. said...

I've always thought that your 4th is just the perfect Independence day celebration I've ever heard of!