It is Flag Day, and I am playing hookie. There is absolutely no connection. I am merely elated (odd juxtaposition of words) to have a quiet morning alone in my temporary home in Sedona, which is a rare thing these days because I spend my weekends at my permanent home in Flagstaff, thus, I have not had a morning to just be. So here I am. Just being. And it is Flag Day.
I do not recall if it was daily, but I recall that it was often, that one of us nine kids, under my father’s instruction, raised the American Flag up our white flagpole in the morning, and we lowered it at dusk. We folded it into its proper tight triangle, we stored it in the front hall closet, and we all knew Flag protocol. Flags do not wave after dusk. Flags never touch the ground. Flags do not wave in the rain, etc. To check these out, please visit USFlag.org
This brings to mind the idea of patriotism. What is it? Who has it? Is it a liberal thing? A conservative thing? Spiritual? Old fashioned? Eternal? I really would love to know your thoughts. So feel free to take this as an inquiry, and share what you think?
Are you patriotic? If so, or if not, why? What does it mean to you? Especially my daughters, you know who you are…Did I raise you patriotic? Are you? Do you see me as patriotic?
Personally? I consider myself very patriotic. I love being an American, and I love my country. Do I agree with everything the U.S. government, state governments, local government, etc. do? Do I like every citizen? Each immigrant? Each policy, law, ordinance? Do I admire everyone who has ever been appointed or elected or hired into a role of leadership? Do I follow everyone believed to be a hero? No. Do I have favorites? Of course. Have I ever hated anything about the U.S. so much that it forced me to leave? No. But would I? Yes. And I admire the folks who left when they thought it was no longer a place they could believe in or trust.
For me, the weave that makes the fabric of this country — with all of its freedoms, foibles, fallicies, foreigners, friends, funk, and fabulousness; and all of its ravels, repairs, rips, and righteousness — is fantastic. As in any relationship, I negotiate that which I can love, admire, and join with that which I despise, reject or simply find annoying. In the end, what I love about the U.S. of A. reigns. And I’m a happy ‘Merican.
Being a part of this country, is not unlike being a part of a big family. And that makes me think of a poem. No surprise there. I offered this to my parents at their 50th wedding anniversary, long ago, as an examination of drawers, and what we keep in them. I offer it to you now, as it speaks to all of the love and craziness that a big family, or a big country, provides. I am fortunate, and probably a little insane, for both.
It’s a long one, sit back, and enjoy.
An Anniversary Poem
for Harold and Pauline, 50 years, 1947-1997
“Stars that used to twinkle in the skies
are twinklin’ in my eyes;
I wonder why.”
The Hair Drawer
Mom and Dad nudge each other
in front of the large hall mirror
elbows as familiar as Emperor tulips
flourishing in May. They dress.
Dad’s Windsor knot, an obedient sailor.
Mom’s lipstick, seashell soft,
smells like they’re going to a party
when she kisses us goodnight.
Her hair is perfect and red.
The Utensil Drawer
They sing in front of the stove
stirring Navy bean soup.
Their song ladled with un-matching spoons,
over the sweet ham bone melting between them.
The rich pink broth, as welcome as their chorus,thickens with the verses.
They know almost all the right words.
The Tool Drawer
Another nail needs pounding, a cracked cup glued.
The lock on the back door sticks again.
They repair things; some more than once.
They break things. Fix them. Never stop
trying. Mom hums, Dad whistles, they take turns
calling from across the yard, “Can you give me a hand?”
They can. The broken pieces are gathered in Baggies with twist ties.
Chiseled lines mark their foreheads,
wonders and wounds and worries
waiting to be tightened or taped.
The Hutch Drawer
Dad shuffles cards straight into a flush. Diamonds. Crisp corners.
Mom laughs, talks, jokes, and wins!
They wink, showing each other their card-game faces,
pale eyes hiding strategies, secrets, longings.
In between cigarettes and sips of beer,
pretzels, peanuts, Faygo, or changing diapers,
they praise their skills, their scores.
There is no greater gamble.
They bet it all, to show. Nine times.
The Phone Drawer
They are each other’s calendar, address book,
grocery list: sticky blue ink on yellow scratch paper.
They tack moments on a kitchen cupboard, memories on a door.
The curly black cord winds around their conversations,
tangles up relationships, gets stretched nearly straight.
Then gets chewed on. The receiver saves
their laughter inside an imperfect circle of tiny holes.
The smudged black plastic cradles the news
they willingly share. Secrets they keep,
waiting for another call to wake them, warn them,
kiss them goodnight.
The Cookie Drawer
Mom and Dad take us to sweeter places, to the lakes
where the waves draw us away
from Grand River and Southfield, St. Mary’s
crowded church pews, our fluorescent school rooms. Away for a day
or more from our blue TV neighborhood.
We find water glass and snake grass on the sand
search country boutiques for trinkets and fudge.
Every day is Sunday at the beach with treats
and games, staying up late, eating
donuts for breakfast with milk.
The return drive, highway turns to freeway.
We snack in the back seat watching concrete walls.
Dad’s tanned left arm soaks up the city
outside the window. Mom wears her sun hat all the way home.
The Junk Drawer
If there aren’t mistakes,
missing parts, abandoned pieces to the puzzle,
our days would line up so evenly.
Too straight, a dull gray.
Lost or forgotten moments accumulate
waiting to be found or forgiven,
attached once again to the machine
or the device, the broken toy soldier, the unpainted doll.
Mom and Dad sort, plan, search
for a way to order and soothe.
Rubber bands with no elasticity collect.
Twisted springs wait for a patient hand.
In that pile of errors there are souls to be found
lies to be untold, and tapes that must remain
The Bread Drawer
Their humor is as certain as yeast, sugar,
and water: laughter reverberates, bubbles overflow
into a bowlful of stories: Detroit, the Macklers
and the Murphys are kneaded and baked into all nine loaves.
“Mom’s Painted Gumball”
“Dad’s Missing Sled”
Like a sourdough starter, this myth,
with its Irish charm, its Dutch stature,
will last forever.
Served daily with grace
“Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts . . .”and with gratitude
“We give Thee thanks Almighty God . . .”
a four-leaf clover for an appetizer, a tulip for dessert.
The Buffet Drawer
At the end of a long list of blessings
in every night’s prayer, Mom and Dad, you ask
that God keep you. ‘Til death do you
part. Your survival is linked like rosaries
between your fingers, entertwined
and familiar. In sickness, health, poverty
and wealth, in love, you have tallied prayers,
children, and fifty years
later let us count all the times
your cheeks are still soft to touch
like old friends, your hips still sway
to the rhythm of a rag, a waltz,
a ballad. Let us toss confetti
to celebrate each dance,
and recite a toast honoring
those vows, this golden anniversary.