My Mom is a patriot. I am too. To say that to some connotes a certain partisanship that is not intended. I’m mostly a radical anti-racist with a lingering idealism that I can’t seem to shake. No side of any coin should dangle patriotism as a banner unshared. It belittles the word and the intent.
I only know this country, with its original sin of slavery still smoldering, and I am not naive to the things we have done on our path to the present. Holidays and the things they represent are the best hopes and ideals we can muster. Our flag as an image remains true to its symbolism, it is we human-Americans who fall short.
I recently got an email from my mother (my siblings too) that I, initially, took as a scolding. She mentioned that she’d appreciate hearing from us on the American holidays, and it is with this post, that I wish her a happy Fourth of July, and join her in her wish for the day to be acknowledged for more than a hot dog and a mattress sale. For the promise that this celebration makes, the promise that has a ways to go for some of our citizens, as I have a ways to go on many fronts myself. Independence is freedom, and when we continue in that promise we raise that flag.
Our flag, the united flag, The American flag. One people. One Mom, hopefully keeping cool in New Jersey, had to remind me. I’m glad she did.
Families all have their stuff. You’ve heard that before, right? I’ve heard it and usually agree, but until a particular day, a few years back, I really didn’t have an incident to point to. Yes, all families have dynamics and tensions, but in mine they are largely unsaid, and in the face of other stories I’ve heard, we seem to be on a harmonious scale.
As the youngest by many years, I didn’t have the day-to-day sibling tensions or rivalries most kids did. I also tried to be on my best behavior because I wanted more time with my brothers and sister. I didn’t want to squander quality time with petty beefs that, truthfully, would need some manufacturing.
Life has it’s way of doling out wisdom and woe, knowledge and blind sides, and eventually we all catch up to each other as we get older.
Cut to: Christmas 2009, Portland, Oregon. The city was halted by the worst snow storm in 50 years, and my entire family was meeting at my brother’s house, as the storm clamped down the city and its roads. Portland knows precipitation, but not this kind. The city seemed to take a hands-off approach or they simply hadn’t had to deal with that kind of weather. Either way, it took some doing to get there and for my folks it was tough with my dad’s mobility being low, by this point. We made it, and my brother’s home was lovely, warm, and big enough for us to enjoy our holiday together, under one roof.
The close quarters may have started to take their toll, when in a silly fit of rage I confronted my brother for playfully spraying me with two different cologne samples using more mist than one would use when applying bug spray. We sat there watching a basketball game and I couldn’t shake the cloying stench of competing colognes laid on so thick, I felt transported to a whorehouse in the Wild West. I was staying at a hotel and had no change of clothes, and as the meaningless Christmas Day game warbled on, I started to let my brother know my discomfort was starting to make me angry.
My brother mentioned his legendary resolve when it came to escalating practical joke feuds. Not having grown up with the rough-housing associated with siblings of a close age I didn’t take well to personal boundaries being crossed. For some reason the word escalate seemed to cue my escalating rage, and I let loose a tirade, in third person, speaking as if I was given the chance to confront a loved ones killer in a courtroom. My brother and everyone in the room felt the atoms shift and it was parried with a thrust from my brother that ended with an expletive and a door slam (either figurative or literal, I’m not sure).
My other brother had a t-shirt for me to borrow, which may not have fit, and I stewed in my juices as I’m sure my brother did in another part of the house. We were snowed-in, to some degree, (not like Minnesota snowed-in, but, close), so walking out of the house and taking a couple of laps was not at our disposal. My cologne culprit brother was also in a walking boot, at the time, so I’m sure he felt the lack of mobility more acutely.
We made our peace in the kitchen a few hours later. It’s laughable today, and I should be glad to be in a family where this event is on the list of low-lights. I do wish it never occurred, but if you eavesdrop, to any degree, and hear the kinds of things families have done to each other, it makes you laugh, but I swear, if he comes at me with a spray bottle, I’m gonna have something for him.