July Fourth Memories

Fourth of July Memories
July 4 2011

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For me, the Fourth is redolent of childhood –
This day brings back so many smells and sights and sounds –
The acrid sulphur of the caps I bought by hundreds
And looked for ever bigger ways to detonate,
The sweet and milky smell of sweet corn cooking –
A dozen ears a-bubble in a soup pot,
The meaty smell of hot dogs on a charcoal grill,
Scorching at the ends while waiting to be eaten;
The bursting pride of bands approaching,
Parading along Elm St —
Majorettes in short short skirts
While tuba, drum and cymbal players wilted, clothed from head to toe in wool and braid,
The vets, in ironed uniforms with medals, their eyes locked forward and their steps united —
The young men back from World War II still fit and strong,
While older vets from earlier wars limped along behind with thinning hair and crooked backs;
The flags and banners swirled, echoing the red and white and blue that flew from porches;
The lengthy solemness of “ Taps” and 21 reports of rifles, at the war dead monument –
The sound waves echoing through our reverent silence,
Bouncing off the houses and the cars and then reporting back like boomerangs.
I stood with neighbors, proud to be American, belonging to the greatest land,
Not knowing that in time I’d learn its wrongs, its weakness, its injustice,
And understand that we are only human after all, just one among the nations,
Seeking still the proud, upstanding heritage that then we thought we’d found.

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Reflection:
July Fourth stands out in my memories from childhood as a truly special day. There were exciting events from morning, with its parade, through the afternoon with its pleasant picnics – folding chairs, yummy food — to evening with either a roaring bonfire pyre several stories tall or, later, in a larger city, fireworks that were loud and bright enough to be fascinatingly terrifying. I remember the quaking feeling inside brought about by the noise of the city fireworks, each one brighter and more complex than the last, until the “grand finale” with its extravagant profusion of light and noise. The day progressed predictably, and I knew the schedule by heart – knew where to stand for the best view of both the parade and the military honors ceremony in the town’s cemetery, with its rows of silent granite headstones among the spreading trees. As I remember, it never seemed to rain on the 4th – although my memory is probably wrong on that point. In my memory, the holiday lives as the archetypically perfect summer day in an archetypically perfect American small town – it would have been a perfect Norman Rockwell scene on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

As I was reliving that pristine set of memories today, with a friend, I realized painfully how naïve was our patriotic pride in those post World War II years – how blind we were to the many injustices and cruelties we perpetrated, not only worldwide but also in our own country. Today, I am more chastened as I think of being American on July 4, and reflect on the many ways in which this country still denies civil rights to many minorities, on the cruelty that we have repeatedly inflicted across the world in our prideful wars, on our partisan refusal as a country to move toward a just economy, on our hateful treatment of the poor of all descriptions. These injustices are not new. They existed in my childhood and we didn’t talk about them. At least now, I think, more people have become aware of how we lack in charity and kindness. Perhaps I should rejoice that this is progress, a step toward becoming a better country, “with liberty and justice for all.”

About Rev. Rosemary Hyde, Ph.D.

I am a grandmother, a classical homeopath, a mystical poet, and an interfaith minister. I also have a large, enduring place in my heart for Paris. I first spent time in Paris in 1961, as a Fulbright scholar. I remained in France for three years, living also in Toulouse and in Nancy. I have revisited France and Paris multiple times since then, and have come to know central Paris reasonably well. I grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where there were many Franco-Americans, and their language fascinated me. I was fortunate in 6th grade, when my family moved, to find myself in a Catholic French speaking girls' school, where I had the wonderful fortune of becoming bilingual. It still feeds my soul deeply, to visit Paris, speak French, and reconnect with the little French girl in me. I am serving presently as co-minister at Unity Center of Peace in Chapel Hill, NC. I give talks one or two Sundays a month -- please go to the website, www.unitychapelhill.org, and sign up for the weekly e-news to learn what's going on -- special events, seasonal interfaith ceremonies, and Sunday themes and talks. My vision for the Unity Chapel Hill ministry and for myself is to become a loving, uniting presence in the lives of all those who cross paths with us. That's all there is, really -- loving presence. And so it is. Amen. My goal as a minister is to add richness to life for those who resonate to more than one religious tradition or to none -- those with mixed religions as well as the unchurched, untempled, and unmosqued. All of us, whatever our cultural allegiances, hunger for and need support in finding the transcendent joy that's ours to find in this earthly life. All of us need and want to celebrate beautifully the great and small milemarker moments. All of us crave the beauty of prayer as an expression of our participation in universal love. All of us wish to learn a greater vision, to see our lives opening to the Divine. All of us desire deeply to find serenity and peace that lasts no matter what happens today and tomorrow. This is the meaning of Transcendessence. We find the essence of spirit and transcend the narrow constraints of our bodies and egos. Join us today by subscribing, so you won't miss a single poem, message, prayer, or meditation.
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