Thursday, July 4, 2013
The Significance of a Flag
THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER is such an effective vehicle for conveying the significance of the flag which represents our country that little more can or should be said about it. I remember learning in fourth grade that the red represents the blood shed for our freedom, the white, our purity of purpose and blue, the loyalty to our cause. In Boy Scouts, I was taught to venerate the flag and to treat it respectfully, both in spirit and in handling.
How about you? What special significance do the Stars and Stripes hold in your life? Is it possible to be one of the most fortunate creatures on Earth, a citizen of the United States of America, and NOT feel a lump in your throat when our nation's banner is raised?
There is one flag that harbors special meaning to me and it occupies an unique place in my heart. In 1994, this particular banner flew over the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. to honor the accomplishment of Harold and Alma Reece, my grandparents. What feat did they accomplish to merit such honor, you might ask? Well, the flag flew to recognize their 70th wedding anniversary. But really, it represents so much more...
Papa and Granna were Americana incarnate! Papa first asked to marry Granna when she was just 15 years old. It was The Depression and no one in the rural South had much. But Granna's family owned an estate known in the area as "Cloudland" and were better off than many. The patriarch of the Cloud clan, my great-grandfather, told Papa that if he still wanted her when she turned 18, that he could have her. They married on her 18th birthday (Columbus Day, October 12, 1924).
Granna wore a robin's egg blue dress that Papa Cloud bought for her at a shop on the square in Marietta, Georgia for $24, a princely sum in those hard days. (She still had that dress in her possession on the day the flag flew to celebrate the 70th anniversary of that wedding). The rawness of those times is unimaginable to most of us today. After the ceremony, Papa and Granna were allowed an afternoon and evening to celebrate their union. They were both back in the fields working the very next morning. What was my Papa Cloud's parting remark to this young upstart who had taken his daughter? "You know that you are getting my best worker." That day of toil that was their honeymoon was just the first of so many that became the rhythm of their life together.
With little help other than what they provided one another, they started their family: a child was born every two years for twenty years, eight of whom survived to adulthood. After my father, Neal's birth, they managed to secure $500 credit to purchase their own 100 acre farm. (That amount was financed over the standard 30-year term). Together with help from his brothers-in-law, Papa felled trees and gathered stone on the property and built the simple house that was to become our family "homeplace". It was there that an idyll, at least to these 21st century eyes, was formed.
For how else would you describe Americana perfection but as an idyll? The land, the trees, the gardens, the animals, the barn and sheds, that house, the clothes drying on a wire line, the breeze, the red dirt, the SMELLS, the TASTES, the cool water from the well, the ABSOLUTE LOVE AND COMFORT AND SENSE OF PLACE & BELONGING that are the very definition of the word "home".
Papa and Granna lived on together for a few more years after that special flag flew in their honor. They lived together in that little house under the watchful, loving care of their family, just as they always had. Papa took his leave of this world first, peacefully in his own bed. When Granna finally became "conscious" of his passing a few weeks later, she rushed to join him that same day. It seems they were always meant to be together.
The tears that form as I write this re-affirm just how important all of those things continue to be in my life....and most of them exist now only in lovely, comforting memories.
So, if you and I ever share a moment when the Stars and Stripes are raised, maybe you'll understand the significance of that moment in my life. I can only hope and pray that all who read this attach their own significance to our flag and to the warmth and comfort that it can provide.