I have a number of July 4th memories. My earliest would have to be celebrating with my family – a picnic, fire works, a cool swim. Sometimes we attended church and enjoyed a typical Baptist feast.
I recall July 4th in 1964 as my cousin Annette from Wyoming was visiting. Her mother had died the year before and Annette was getting to know her Texas family. I can recall the family had gathered at my aunt and uncle’s cabin on the creek. As we splashed in the cold creek waters, others played badminton. Fire flies danced in unison to the sounds of A Hard Day’s Night as it played over the transistor radio. The hot July heat filled the air. It was a fun day.
I recall July 4th 1969 as I was in San Diego, CA visiting family friends. The Hamms lived 19 blocks from the Pacific ocean which was ideal for a teenager who loved the beach. I can remember watching fireworks from the roof of their home. The fireworks echoed across the bay and into the neighborhood. The bright colors reflected off the tranquil waters. My summer boyfriend Malcolm and I sat silently together – and enjoyed the events which unfolded before our eyes. We were teenagers, still transparent in our goals and equally naive. Life would place a search light on our generation and would create more fireworks but that night – such realities seemed very distant indeed.
I recall July 4th 1972 My sister and her then husband drove to my family home to celebrate – however it rained. We did enjoy a picnic lunch inside. I remember my sister was a glow as she had just learned she was expected a child the following March. The rain could not dampen her joy. The next July 4th, 1973 – a horse named Secretariat had just won the Triple Crown. America was feeling pretty good. Our potato salad and fried chicken tasted truly American that day.
I recall July 4th 1975. I flew to Birmingham, AL to visit a friend and her family. I stayed with Beverly and her husband. I recall we played ping pong in the garage, watched Wimbledon tennis on tv and enjoyed Arthur Ashe’s victory. We went to church with her parents and enjoyed a good Southern meal.
July 4th 1976 was America’s 200th birthday and America went all out. Every night on tv were Bi-centennial moments. The Queen of England and her husband Prince Phillip were guests at the White House. Everywhere parties were planned. We knew this was special and that Sunday – July 4th certainly was. My family gathered on Bolivar beach and watched the tall ships sail into Galveston harbor. That night an impressive fireworks display filled the skies, their reflections on the water. My two oldest nephews – Tommy and Sean held my hand and viewed the events with awe. I can still feel their gritty little hands pressed into mine. Sean who was just three years old would frequently state when he heard the words Bi-Centennial – Hi-Centennial. So cute.
July 4th 1978 found me on the other side of the pond. I spent that July 4th in England and enjoyed reminding my British friends it was America’s birthday. They would smile and quickly change the subject.
July 4th 1979 was memorable for me as I enjoyed a church party – and completed the day by attending a Peter Frampton concert. He wowed the audience and wished America a happy birthday. The old Sam Houston Coliseum rocked that night.
July 4th 1980 was time to enjoy a church party. I did so just as I did in 1981. John McEnRoe won Wimbledon and we all celebrated a new champion after a five year stint with stoic Born Borg. Our church single’s group’s party was marred by rain but that did not curtail our fun.
July 1985 our friends from California were driving through Texas via their motor home. The Hamm’s daughter Glennis and her family made a quick stop at my brother’s home. We enjoyed recalling when, talking about mutual visits and a Texas meal. I took the bus over on Wednesday from Houston only to return the next day. I had to work that Friday but the trip over was worth it to me. I enjoyed our two families’ time of sharing. It was a stark reality to know such meetings might not happen again as time was moving on and claiming more and more of our loved ones.
Other July 4th came and went. I usually stayed in Houston and participated in a church activity. I watched Wimbledon tennis on tv and thus stayed out of the horrid Texas heat.
As memorable as these events are to me – so is the latest July 4th memory a grizzly reminder that life does move on and takes the best from time to time. The day before on July 3rd 2012 was my last visit with my brother. He lay in M.D. Anderson hospital – on life support. I stood beside his bedside – prayed for a miracle. He was a shadow of himself. He looked so much like daddy – one would have thought it was daddy. Yet daddy had died in 2002 – more than 10 years before.
My brother’s ordeal with cancer began in 1997 and would end on July 4th, 2012 – before noon. I heard the news from my nephew who walked over from my brother’s home to tell me. I was on the phone with a neighbor. I don’t recall much else. It was a terrible day. The sun was out but it felt eerily cold. Such events create a crater and frequently remind us life is short and there are not many tonics which will resolve the heartbreak.
The subsequent events which would parallel any low grade soap opera have been played out before the world. My brother’s home which he built is now home to a speed boat. The lovely tall pine trees have been clear cut. Very little is left of him. Were it not for a small patch of trees which are to the north of his former property – trees which have been saved because of undivided interest – there would be no trees. There would be nothing to remind anyone of the family whose life has been dedicated to create beauty and to save the Big Thicket. In fact my Great Uncle Elmer Jackson was called Mr. Big Thicket. His dedication to preserving the land was legendary.
When I think of my brother – I like to remind myself he died the same day as President John Adams and President Thomas Jefferson. I like to recall all the good he did – baked pies for shut ins, always willing to help.
I don’t want to recall his last year – hallow indifference by his family. He died alone in a hospital in Houston. His wife and children would not stay with him. He worked so hard to create a legacy – one of sterling which would stand the test of time. I think of my brother – whose wife and children flipped him off – with an ultimate show of disrespect. They would and could not bother to order a tombstone for him. Only after my sister and I discussed the unacceptable situation was a military tombstone obtained. The funeral home delivered the tombstone to Hooks Cemetery and it rests next to my parents and grandparents. It is a tribute to him.
I remember him today and I know how hurt he would be by the city of Kountze’s actions – whose high jinks are straight from the Bully’s Guidebook. My brother served on the city council and did his best to create a better community. To deny his sister water because someone wants to show boat their so called authority is a slap in the face of any decent person and it most certainly would be a slap in my brother’s face. Were he here I know he would not stand for it. Were he here so much which has happened in four years would never have occurred. His passing left a huge gap in some many lives.
July 4th comes and goes. We celebrate and we reflect. We remember. We hope better days will come. I remind myself that life can blind side us with bad but it can also blind side us with good.
May your July 4th be good, create a pride in the country we all share and reinforce a strong belief in God who started it all anyway!!
This is my prayer for you!!