A patriotic ‘bah, humbug’ on the Fourth of July

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2017

Not wanting to sound unpatriotic but my first thoughts of the Fourth of July are “Bah, humbug.”

My childhood memories are almost nonexistent. For young’uns every summer day was a holiday. My only recollection of anything that could have been connected to the Fourth of July was when Uncle Willie and Aunt Eleanor came from Eufaula to visit us.

They were rich by any comparison that I could make. Uncle Willie brought a paper sack full of firecrackers that came with instructions to Use Under Adult Supervision.

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My cousin Jimmy and I weren’t exactly what those words meant but we recognized a fuse when we saw one. The cowboys at the Saturday picture show would strike a match and light the fuse on the dynamite and BAM!

Maybe we should not have stuck the match to the paper sack. Maybe then, the popping wouldn’t have sent the chicken squawking and fluttering around the chicken yard. Maybe our grandmother would have stayed in the house. Maybe our granddaddy would have minded his own business and we wouldn’t have gotten our behind ends torn up. Maybe that was the Fourth of July. Maybe not.

When I got older and had children, the Fourth of July was a day of misery for mamas. The daddies spent the entire day celebrating their independence on the golf course.

We, the mamas, spent the entire day chasing our little lose mules around the swimming pool, putting Band-Aids on scraped knees, wiping blood and dislodging watermelon seeds from little noses, drying tears, stopping fisticuffs and putting tobacco on wasp stings. Oh, what a relief nightfall was. If I could just get “Marco Polo!” out of my head.

The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate our country’s independence. It’s a time for picnics and cookouts. It’s a time for parades and Andy Griffith marathons. It’s a time to get together with family and friends. It’s a day off work with the dread of having to go back. 

To me, the Fourth of July is all of that Bah Humbug!  But, as the Grinch said, perhaps, maybe, the Fourth of July means a little bit more.

Several years ago, I spent a week in the Rocky Mountains and was taking a redeye from Denver to Atlanta. From high above the fruited plains of America, I could see the fireworks celebrations of cities and hamlets, from towns and wide spots in the road. From 33,000 feet, I could see Americans celebrating the blessings of living in a country where freedom rings. And, I remembered the words penned by Katherine Lee Bates:   

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

I wiped away a salty tear.