(Note from Jodie: Many thanks to those of you who let me know that yesterday’s post showed up without photos. Turns out that the site that does this stuff for me was down – or maybe somebody out there just doesn’t love America. Either way, it should be working now. Happy painting!)
We’ve always been a July 4th kind of family. Patriotism plays into it, sure, but there’s also the lure of things like al fresco dining (cookouts), free entertainment (fireworks), and easy decorating (throw a few flags around and – bam! – you’re in the holiday spirit).
What’s not to love?
Truth be told, we own a lot of flags. Normal people buy candy or magazines in the checkout line; I am a sucker for Old Glory. I can never remember how many of the dowel rods the dogs chewed up in their patriotic zeal last year, so I grab a fresh batch of ’em every June to stick in the ground, the flower pots, or on the front door. Other kids show up at college with Michael Jordan posters and monogrammed bulletin boards; mine arrive with giant flags. And if I happen to see an old ratty Star Spangled banner in an antiques shop? Just hope you aren’t between me and the cash register.
Because honestly, you can never have too many flags. That’s probably what I was thinking on a warm June day back in 2002, right around when the family photo (above) was snapped. We’d found a piece of old plywood in the garage and, not having any other use for the giant board but unwilling to waste it (a reluctance that I like to think speaks well of my fiscal sensitivity), I grabbed a can of white paint and told the kids to let ‘er rip.
Once they’d covered both the wood and their bathing suits, we added a navy square and three simple words: GOD BLESS AMERICA. Part proclamation, part prayer, it seemed to fit, particularly since 9/11 was still very fresh in our minds.
Then came the fun part.
We live on a fairly public corner of our neighborhood, and every kid who came by that day was invited to dip his or her hands in a brownie pan full of red paint. Print-by-print, hand-by-hand, the “stripes” came together, as each child left his mark and then used a Sharpie pen to sign his – ahem – handiwork. Betsy Ross, eat your heart out.
Today, most of the kids who slapped their hands on the sign are all grown up – some of them are living in far-away places like Charlotte and Los Angeles – but we still haul the sign out every year. As a nation, we’ve been through a lot of changes in the past 13 years, but our prayer is still the same: God bless America.
If you want to join us in that prayer this year (or if you just need a project to keep the kids busy for a couple of hours), why not make your own flag? All you need is a piece of plywood, some paint, and a bunch of patriotic volunteers who don’t mind getting a little bit messy!