As I drove to work this morning I found myself wishing that I were the kind of person to soak up the inspiration before my eyes and then sit down and write the lyrics to a country song--a ballad to this place I call my hometown. Today is July 3rd, and as I drove down Main St. I started grinning like a fool at the sight of all the blankets, lawn chairs, stakes and strings that have already appeared to reserve prime viewing spots for tomorrow's Independence Day parade.
It's nothing new, but it still makes me smile every year. In fact, I think one of the reasons I'm so delighted by this hometown custom is that despite all manner of change and progress over the years--and the fact that the parade has since become an incredibly LONG and drawn out display of hometown pride mingled with conservative politics--some things HAVE stayed the same as they were when I was still a freckle-faced kid, sitting on the curb, waving my cheap little piece-of-stiff-cloth-stapled-to-a-dowel-rod American flag, hoping the next group to come down the street would toss candy into the crowd, sending us all scrambling for a Tootsie Roll or Dumdum pop as they skittered across the pavement or sunk into the grass around us.
Tomorrow morning those who've reserved seats will take their places, and the crowds will press in, and a slice of wholesome Midwestern life will pass slowly by - the classic cars and the marching bands, the Shriners in their funny little cars and the church with the shopping cart drill team, the cheesy floats and the convertibles with smiling politicians sitting in the back, the cheerleaders and the Boy Scouts, and the brigade of red and yellow emergency vehicles from up to five neighboring towns, blaring their sirens, causing dogs to bark and kids to cover their ears, even as their eyes open wide to take in the flashing lights and the gallant looking firemen and officers waving back at them. And then, when it's all over, there's the street sweeper, the signal that it's time to disperse to back yards and picnic tables to enjoy hamburgers, togetherness, and the freedom in which we live.
This is the 4th of July in my hometown. Though it's been a couple years since I've attended the parade myself, and I imagine that some day I'll move away from here, I think this will always be a part of who I am as an American.