The star-spangled sky is having a birthday party, after hours.
Batteries of anxious fireworks try hard to contain themselves while hiding in the bushes. Aluminum chairs, stiff legs unfolded, carefully situate themselves to view the cyclorama of America’s unfolding Birthday, any moment now…
Into the height of twilight, a single whistling flare finds its way up to center stage – KA-BOOM! The crowd whoops, rattled babies cry and children run to huddle on blankets at parent’s feet.
Swoosh-swoosh-swoosh, a hunting, hinting sizzling goes upward and then another and another. Silence is paused mid-air. A cork popping whisper and then KA-BOOM! KA-BOOM! KA-BA-BOOM! Elemental colors burst above the crowd: Reverberation Red, Winter White, Brilliant Blue, Gushing Green, Poised Purple, Sparkling Silver, Yackety Yellow, Gracious Gold, Outspoken Orange.
Garden Roman candles shoot stars, spinners and colored peonies, Summer Heat fountains erupt into splashing fiber optic light. Whistlers – Sky Highs, Whistler Chasers, Scream Dreamers, screech through the sky. Cannonade artillery shells and mortars, bombastic breath takers, shock the air waves. Atomic Thunder Lords pummel the ears of men and women, boys and girls, the young and old, black or white, echoing its thunderous proclamation: “Attention: Liberty and Justice for all.”
Ashes rain down. Apparitions, Spirits of the American Revolution, waft through clouds of sulfur smoke and then disappear until next year.
Heaven’s gazers are photographed. The popping flash bulb sky captures moments of wide-eyed wonderment.
The birthday party continues on the ground. Sparklers arcing on sticks, splash light onto the faces of slack-jawed kids. Smoke bombs fume, the fog making conversation sputter. Snakes coil out of their black dot cages. Bottle rockets shoot straight up defying gravity, fizzling seconds later. Cherry bombs and M-150s snap like bull whips everywhere.
Earlier today, there has been preparation for the birthday party. Parades canopied streets. Marching bands with bugle and drum marched in 1-2-3-4 cadence. Drums called “Rat-A Tat-Tat, Rat-A Tat-Tat” and fifes whistled Yankee Doodle and slow scotch. The Stars and Stripes marched to Sousa while Uncle Sam walking on stilts made children’s fingers and toes point.
Vets sworn to protect now present the Colors: Red, White & Blue. With alacrity caps are removed. Grandparents, Liberty’s Old Guard, stretch out tired legs from lawn chairs. They stand as the High Flyin’ Grand Old Flag passes by, liberty recognized in the woven tri-color fabric.
Pies, apple and blueberry, were swallowed ala mode. Picnics popped up in city parks. Lemonade soured some looks, smacked some lips, returned youth to some in a swallow. Potato sack races tripped up with laughter. Horseshoes were flung at neighbors. Old Glory was displayed on porches and draped on banisters, her stripes and stars unfurled for anyone who will look her way. Families gave way to each other for an afternoon.
We say, “America, you are beautiful, from sea to shining sea beautiful.” Every year we see your birthday smile, your youthful ear-to-ear grin revealing your dazzling braces. We also see the wear and tear on vets standing with tattered flags, wanting to pass the torch to a deserving generation.
America, each year we return to celebrate the beauty of your unbridled hope and your pragmatic ways. Tonight, especially, the dreams of many Americans will reignite and shoot skyward adding more dazzling light to the already blazing torch of Liberty:
“America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” Ronald Reagan
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Our Banner painted by Frederich Edwin Church