I remember it like it was yesterday. July 4, 1976. I had just turned 10 years old. My little rinky dink blink and you'll miss it town was putting on a Bicentennial celebration like no other town for miles around.
My mother was part of the Homemaker's club, a group of probably 10-20 women, homemakers, who had the idea to host a Bicentennial parade. Hours and hours and hours and months and months and months of planning went into pulling off the greatest shindig Cataract, Wisconsin had ever seen.
For a few hours on that warm summer day, the town with a sordid reputation was the celebrity.
There were floats and bands and clowns. Astronaut Deke Slayton was honored in a float contest, as he was a native of the big town down the highway. The winning entry was quintessential Wisconsin, farm boy to astronaut, with a miniature barn and rocket ship riding around the streets of my small village.
I got to ride a float too. My grandfather had a collection of Maytag motors. Still to this day, I don't understand the significance of them, but I am told that his collection numbered in the hundreds if not thousands. We decorated a hay bale trailer with red, white and blue streamers, and surrounded it with a sampling of his motors. I got to sit in the center of the trailer, making my parade debut in a period costume my mother had sewn, on top of all her duties of helping organize the event.
It was a proud day. A happy day. My little town, almost able to be counted on a handful of hands and feet on a normal day, was filled with hundreds of people lining its streets. The streets I walked on, rode my bike around, played in without worry were swarming with happiness. With joy. With excitement.
It was a great day to be an American. On that day it didn't matter what happened the day before and we certainly, at least I wasn't, worried about what was going to happen tomorrow. It was all on hold, the pause button had been pushed. It was a great day to be a ten year old girl riding on a float celebrating America's independence.
I've never forgotten that day. That day still fills with me joy and pride. And hope. I wish you could have been there. I wish you could have seen what I saw as I rode around on a hay trailer throwing candy, wearing my Betsy Ross costume.
Maybe the ten year old girl in me is driving my hope today, my pleadings today, my prayers today. Maybe the ten year old in me is screaming for all of us to STOP YELLING AT EACH OTHER!
A ten year old's eyes are sponges. They absorb good. They believe. They wonder without worry. They have hope even though they don't know it is hope that is inside them.
I wish we could have that day, right now, in this horrible, hateful violent time we are living in.
July 4, 1976 was a great day to be an American. I want my children and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren to know how great it is to live in a country such as the United States. I want them to feel the wonder and joy of living in a land where anything is possible with the desire to try.
I want my great grandchildren, sixty years from now, to be celebrating harder than my little town celebrated forty years ago. I want their lives to be such that when they look back on my life and their ancestors that their wonder and hope and joy is is even greater than mine was forty years ago.
That's what I want. I hope it's not too late.