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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Our star spangled holiday

It’s hard to be patriotic these days.  Our own government seems to divide us on more issues to list, and there’s a constant urging to remind us that we are more of an international planet than we thought.  So while on one hand we cherish our patriotic pride, on the other hand we relish the entire world and dine more on foreign cuisines than our own.  (Not that anyone could survive solely on hotdogs and apple pie, although we seem to give it our best shot come summer.)
My family comes from Poland.  My great grandparents came to America and settled either in Cleveland to work in the factories or in Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines.  To this day, I still celebrate certain Polish holidays and treasure our traditions.  But for all of the pierogi and oplatek, I never forget that I am more American than anything else.  And there is no better time of the year to remind me than the Fourth of July, a holiday that rings as loud in my heart as the fireworks do in my ears.  
I will never claim to be a political wizard or even attempt to understand the government that controls our nation, but I would be remiss if I didn’t appreciate just a little the freedoms that we have on my favorite holiday.  If you have ever had the opportunity to meet and converse with people from other countries, you might be as surprised as I that the things we do and consider to be so normal are simple demonstrations of the freedom that we have and that we continue to fight for.
Consider the average Fourth of July holiday.  It is usually kicked off by a parade, where children, adults, and often livestock, walk, drive, ride and dance down the main street of a town.  Hundreds of people line the streets, cheering and collecting candy (including our favorite, Tootsie Rolls,) and never once stop and imagine that in some countries of the world, this could never happen.  We prop up our lawn chairs and wave at the stars of the parade and have a feeling of security and pride and our biggest concern is getting nailed in the head with a piece of hard candy.
And then there’s the traditional cookout, with tables overflowing with summer salads and baked beans (a dish that we credit to our Native Americans,) and grills overflowing with hamburgers and hotdogs and even veggie burgers.  Not only do we have the ability to feed ourselves in gluttonous ways, but we also have the luxury of eating any meat we want, or choosing not to eat meat at all.  
Our paper plates are nearly as full as our bellies when we’re finished, giving us a great reason to plop our ample selves down on the ground to stare up at the skies and await the greatest show not on Earth.  With the night ablaze in fireworks, I lose myself like a child in a candy store, oohing and ahhing and forget that this magnificent display of color and light is meant to be a reminder of the celebrations the ensued with our very first taste of freedom, hundreds of years ago.  
Personally, there is one thing for me that immediately snaps me back to reality and refreshes my mind of the things I learned in history class and the lack of freedoms that I see when I watch media coverage of other nations across this planet.  Our national anthem, especially with a resounding drum roll at the beginning, is enough to get my mind rolling, my heart pounding, and I admit that at times it takes all I have not to pause and fight back tears of amazement of what a country in which I have the great fortune to live.

Most embarrassing moment

It never fails that at some point in your life, someone asks you what your most embarrassing moment is.  For 95% of my days, I couldn’t honestly answer this, because nothing ever seemed quite embarrassing enough to warrant a full confession.  
Sure, there was the time in fifth grade that I neglected to wear underwear because I was so excited about the new outfit I was wearing for my field trip to the museum, but no one really knew.  There was also the time I caught myself falling asleep during a college class and the professor stopped lecturing and asked me, frankly and sternly, if I was trying to stifle a yawn, which I was, and I was as mortified as I should have been.
But nothing compares to the story that pops to mind now, and I can not look at, touch, or even mention a wheelbarrow without snickering to myself.  Because really, if you can’t look back at your most embarrassing moment and burst into laughter, it just wasn’t that exciting and you need to work harder to humiliate yourself.
My story begins with the background philosophy that if a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?  Amazingly enough, this concept works in so many ways during one’s life.  And so I ponder, if a person does something really stupid and there’s no one there to watch her, did it really happen?
And so my story goes.
We ordered an inordinate amount of mulch one summer, and of course we had to get it all spread on a day when the temperature outside compared with the sun.  (This is always the case, but I’ll use the heat as the excuse for my delusion.)   There was so much mulch, in fact, that we asked our good friend and neighbor if we could borrow his wheelbarrow so that my husband and I could both work simultaneously to make the job go faster.  Our neighbor’s wheelbarrow is much nicer than ours, which was literally pieced together by an elderly relative and weighs roughly six thousand pounds.  Needless to say, it was a long day of work and sweat and mulch that sticks to the sweat and ends up in places that you never thought mulch could go.  By the time it was suppertime, there was no way I could muster up the strength to actually prepare anything, so I declared that I was going to head to the store to get a pre-made meal.  I made myself look as presentable as possible, hopped into my car, threw it into reverse, and backed right into/over our neighbor’s magnificent wheelbarrow.
This is the part where the tree-in-the-woods thing comes in, because I stood there behind my car and before I said or did anything, I surveyed the street, making sure no one saw me or heard the screech of twisting metal.  Thankfully, the coast was clear, giving me the opportunity to react like a raging maniac, waving my fists and kicking my car and cussing out my husband who left the wheelbarrow behind my car in the first place.  Once I had finished my little fit, I examined the wheelbarrow and determined that the damage was slight enough to ignore, moved it out of my way, and drove off to the store.
The philosophy, however, didn’t quite work in my favor.  For it just so happens that if a tree falls in the woods

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