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THE FIFTH OF JULY
July 5, 2004
 
I always wondered if our vacations hurt my father's feelings - we visited the Concord bridge, the Old North Church, the 150th commemoration of Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown, Valley Forge. You could run your finger down the crack in the Liberty Bell in those days, and we did. My brother loved George Washington, read book after book about his hero: we celebrated Washington's birthday in our house with a cherry cake.

He never showed hurt feelings about it, if he had any. Never tried to argue the other side with my brother. Never reminded us that we were English. That war was over: as far as he was concerned, we were American. Our parents loved history and loved our interest in it -- we visited Civil War battlefields, too: Gettysburg, Antietam. We went to Harper's Ferry and Fredericksburg. Any war, anywhere within driving distance: Washington, Fort McHenry.

Later in life, I was astounded to learn that there were people who found history and politics boring. How could that rich brew of human frailty and serendipity bore anyone? You'd have to be half dead already.

And how could it not make you sad, or proud, or angry? How could a little girl or boy hear those stories and not attempt to enter them, imagining herself a heroine, himself a hero? Wonder, at night, about the untried limits of our own courage? Are we brave enough? Worthy successors?

Years later, on the fifth of July in the midst of another war, I still do not know.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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