Memories of a Patriot

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Summer Vacation….day 11.  I have about another hundred pages to finish Moby Dick.  So far so good.  Lot of details that should I ever have the opportunity to row in a whaleboat, I will be pretty well versed in the responsibilities and strategies.  Don’t laugh, we have three of the world’s last actual  authentic Azorean whaleboats in New Bedford.  People go and row them. I could be on that waiting list.  Perhaps that will be on my list of things to do next summer.

It is the 4th  of July eve, and the neighbors downstairs are rocking the house.  Outside the windows are streams of fireworks over houses and rockets whistling through the air.  Paka the cat is standing sentry at the window should an errant rocket whisk by.  My FHB is fast asleep, unfettered by the noise of the neighbors or the lights and explosions in the distant skies.

Two memories to share, one sixty years old and the other fifteen years ago.  One involves my three year old self and my mother, and the more recent one was also shared by the two of us, both on the 4th of July.  Many, many years ago my parents took me to visit family in New Jersey.  We were there for a barbeque and to see the fireworks.  I actually do have pretty clear memories of being in a field near an elementary school while the fireworks were launched overhead.  I also remember the abject fear that I experienced at the sounds and the worry that the flashes would come down and hurt me.  I also recall being scooped up by mother and brought inside the school building safe from the fireworks. We stood at the door, her arms around my shoulders, and my leaning against her feeling safe from harm.  The July of 2002, after the September of 2001, my mother came to Massachusetts to celebrate my nephew’s birthday on the 3rd and on the 4th I took her to the Esplanade in Boston to hear the Boston Pops.  My mother was a huge fan and her excitement at finally being part of something she only watched on television was infectious. She smiled at everyone and we had to walk through quite a few police barricades to find ourselves a seat.  It was an especially poignant celebration after 9/11 and it seemed as though everyone on both sides of the Charles River recognized that we were all still here, together in celebration of our country’s birthday.  Several jumbotrons were set up along the river for those who were not close to the Hatch Shell to be able to see Keith Lockhart conduct the Pops and  made it possible to hear the music through the sound system.  There was a flyover from the base nearby as part of the celebration.  My mother was awestruck and she grinned so broadly.  There was a childlike delight in her expression.  People brought chairs and sat on the lawns.  We found a spot to sit, on the steps of the MIT library.  My mother chuckled loudly as she stated in her most “refined” tone….” I am going to tell people that my ass went to MIT!”  People around us roared at her pronouncement.  I had long ago given up being embarrassed at her sometimes inappropriate yet effusive comments.

The music was spectacular and as the sun began to set the fireworks were launched and once again, we shared this particular celebration of history and patriotism.  My mother was a fervent patriot.  She would fight and did fight for the right to be a citizen of the United States. She did not take her allegiance lightly.  As I sat close to her and put my arm around her shoulders and we looked skyward, it seemed like it was, in that moment, all right with the world.

Happy 4th of July, America!

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