Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!

It has been a wonderful 4th of July.  Despite the state of Minnesota being in a public "shutdown" due to our legislators being unable to agree on a budget (really, guys, how difficult is it to understand this is what you were elected to do!), I've cried a little, laughed a lot, and just plain enjoyed being an American.  Apart from the horrible storms on Friday night, the holiday weekend was picture perfect .. blue skies and warm temperatures (hovering near 90 all weekend) and just a small, fleecy cloud in the sky now and then.

Ed decided to build a small "screened in porch" on our patio by draping a zip-up circular screen around our patio umbrella/table to allow us to sit on the patio at night without being bothered by bugs. I'm not sure when exactly this has ever been a problem for us .. I don't remember the last time we WANTED to sit outside on the patio at night.  We have to keep Ed from reading those "Sky Mall" magazines on Delta airplanes!  He's exactly the guy they're targeting!  It took a bit of coordination to figure out the logistics, but, once it was in place, his trial run, which consisted of 2 vodka tonics while enjoying our backyard (see picture of his "enjoyment") proved successful, so the "porch" will periodically make an appearance. 

I enjoyed local fireworks last night with my daughter, Tracy, and her family (including grandson, Cam) and some neighbors.  There were about  300 other people who found the same "perfect spot" we did ... the local library, located in the middle of a huge field across the street from where the fireworks happen. How amazing that the same people who fly into church at the last minute on Christmas Eve, astonished that there isn't a front row seat for them, also show up for fireworks at the last minute and wonder why they can't find a parking spot.  And when they can't, they simply stop where they are and get out of the car (or more often a huge pickup truck!) and plop down in front of you ... looking rather indignant if you mention that they're blocking your view.

Apart from that little annoyance, the 4th had a number of highlights.  Not least among them was a beautiful delivery of "God Bless America" offered up by the trio of musicians who had just led us in celebrating at our Saturday night 5:00 Mass.  The congregation was leaving church, the priest was already outside shaking hands, and a number of us were visiting with friends when we heard the first few notes of the song being sung by the woman cantor.  As the song grew around us and filled the large space, many of us stopped where we were and turned and began singing along.  It was one of the most spontaneous exhibitions of patriotism I have ever witnessed and it moved me to tears. Believing he was finished greeting departing congregants, our pastor came through the door and couldn't hide the surprise on his face to see so many people scattered, standing and singing from their hearts.  He stood in the door and joined us, adding his voice to the already swelling chorus.  The finale of the song was greeted with applause, whistles and "whoo-hoos" ... something you don't often hear in a suburban Catholic church made up of people who can hardly force themselves to shake hands during the "kiss of peace."

This morning, I attended the 4th of July Mass at church and was a bit surprised to see tennies and white socks poking out from under the robes of our rather staid priest.  During the sermon, in which he enlisted our aid in sharing what freedom we are most grateful for as Americans, I learned that the tennies and socks were a perfect complement to the bermuda shorts under his vestment ... the freedom to wear shorts while celebrating Mass turned out to be what he was most grateful for.  It made me grateful to have a "human" priest.

The stunning necklaces courtesy of a quick trip to the Dollar Store!
This afternoon, in honor of the occasion, we grilled hamburgers, brats and hotdogs .. I made potato salad, cut up a watermelon, sugared some strawberries, made a shortcake, and invited my 92 year old mother (who LOVES the 4th of July) and two friends to join us for a traditional Independence Day meal.  Mom, who claims she "just doesn't have much of an appetite any more," put away most of a 1/3 lb. cheeseburger, 2 helpings of potato salad, a saucer of cucumbers and onions, a slice of watermelon, strawberry shortcake, and a piece of rhubarb bread!  She has COPD, uses a walker, and has a touch of dementia that exhibits itself in sundowner tendencies from time to time.  None of that inhibits her appetite when faced with a plate of homemade food (most of which was made using her recipes, I might add).  We are grateful for every day that we have with her, and on this 4th of July, I was reminded of all of the holidays of my childhood (and beyond) when she worked so hard to give us good food, good times and good memories.  She succeeded in all three.

It's hard to imagine living in another country and being so content.  I know we are sometimes viewed as "arrogant" Americans, and that's unfortunate (but well deserved at times).  However, when I think about my husband, 3 daughters, 2 sons-in-law and 8 grandchildren, my beautiful home, and the freedoms I enjoy, I truly believe that, even with the state shutdown and legislators who don't seem to know the meaning of the word "legislate,"  I am blessed to be a citizen of the greatest country in the world.

Happy Birthday, Americans!  

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