This 4th of July, America’s Independence Day, was very different then celebrations in the past. One difference is that it was on a Wednesday and I was required to work on Tuesday and Thursday … this made traveling to celebrations unavailable. In the past, I would gather with family in South Dakota or go up to our cabin in Lake of the Woods. This year there was not time. Another thing that was very different was the heat. Rochester, MN had temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 60-70% humidity. Nobody was outside celebrating. On a day that is all about cooking outside and picnics… people huddled inside their air conditioning. I did not have any air condition at home so to survive – I volunteered to work at the Hospital – at least there was air!
These differences got me thinking. What was Independence Day like in the 40’s? Did families celebrate, discovering new ways to make their favorite foods…? Did men too old to go off to war – did they do fireworks? Were there any black powder to use for fireworks or did it all go to the war effort?
Often working in a hospital, I meet people … who give off a presence of strength and confidence that their loved one will get better- then as I talk with them cracks are seen in this mask. I see their eyes brim with unshed tears, worry and fear of the uncertainty of the future shines out of those eyes. Their voice breaks then they stop, take a deep breath, then their “strong” look is back.
Thinking back to celebrating the 4th… how did families truly celebrate when so many of their loved ones were gone. Their father was not the one cooking on the barbecue; the family would be so much smaller as the men had gone to war. How did women celebrate? The 4th of July is celebrating a victory in war- celebrating an end to fighting…. Yet that is not what was happening in 1942.
As I stood to sing the American National anthem, I wondered how women could stand to be patriotic, singing about ‘the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air’… without thinking of their husbands huddled in a fox hole, trying to stay alive. Did they present a “strong” presence – like loved ones do in the hospital? Or would a person see the cracks in their patriotism… the unshed tears and the fear of the unknown future?
Would they be singing “God Bless America,” or be quietly crying out “God, Just bring them home!”
I realized that this year – It was hard for me to be 100% patriotic.
This year, I have been given glimpses of the loss that goes with these holidays.
And I pray – Lord, bring Peace!