July Fourth…01944 Style



I’ve often described it to newcomers as “Mayberry RFD Style 4th of July.”

As a member of the extended “Chane Gang” family from Summer Street, I thought there was no greater 4th event anywhere, including Washington.  Back in the day when the bands had hundreds of players and uniformed members carried extended swords (that could kill with one swipe) to keep onlookers at a safe distance, when the politically incorrect costumed “Indians” targeted the most frighted child on the sidewalk (me) and then held a pretend scalping…  The Manchester Legion Band, locals of all stripes on their bikes, floats, marching, bagpipes, fife and drum corps, and the muskets.  Bang.  The Gavin clan treated us to parachutes, and the bands played for our private town concert.  The party was epic.

It was a moment in time when we were all assembled, differences aside, to celebrate.  My large extended family would squeeze onto the tiny yard at 41 Summer Street, and party like there was no tomorrow.  As a child, I thought all adults were similar.  Differences seemed to melt into similarities during this annual biggest day in our family.  A lot united us.

It seems as if many things are being redefined in our culture.

So much is in flux, and many things feel upside down and inside out.  Unity, sadly, now seems at a premium.  I wonder how our senior and elder loved ones perceive the world around us.  Have we asked them, or do we want to protect them from the chaos?  Do they feel the divide in the same way we do?  Are they experiencing the gnawing of the present-day issues?

Our beloved elders have lived through political conflict, war, natural disasters, and local, national, and international discord.  How have they coped with times like these in their past?  What do they have to say to us?  What is their perspective?  What has led them to the opinions they have?

Did they ever feel unnerved because of the world around them?  How did they stay focused, and how did they resolve their anxiety?  Is there a cause they wish they had taken a stand on and did not?  Was it because of fear, criticism, or wanting to stay neutral and avoid conflict?

What did they take a stand on?  What was that like for them, even if they had to disagree with parents, friends, or family?  I have always admired the wisdom and grit of our elders, what makes them tick, and how they have formulated their opinion when they couldn’t be fed by partisan news outlets or social media.

Honoring our elders.

Many cultures do this better than we do.  We have an opportunity to draw on their collective experience and perspective.  It can facilitate our elders to feel seen, heard, and valued.  We may disagree, we undoubtedly have our way of being in the world, but at the very least, it allows us to understand better those we think we know so well.

As we gather with the red, white, and blue clothing, tableware, and our traditional 4th fare, can we make a special effort to engage our seniors?  If it’s too much to talk about today’s issues, ask them what the 4th means to them.  What do they love about our country, and what would they like to see change?  What could we do better, and what are we doing well with?  It may serve to bring together or challenge a position.  Engaging in authentic conversation and exchange is respectful and honoring. It’s what matters.

Happy Fourth.