Fourth of July, Balloons, Flags and China

July 13 2010

As usual we spent the holiday week on vacation in Northern Wisconsin. This year the whole family joined us, our kids, their spouses and their adorable, angelic, tidy, polite, sweet, never-ever grumpy or whiny children!

We kicked off the celebration before breakfast by playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” on my ipod. Soon the little kids were marching in circles around the living room couch waving their arms, a preview for the parade in downtown Cable (population 846, according to the 2000 census).

Later that morning dark clouds loomed as we climbed into our cars to head for town. A few drops splattered the windshield, but halted by the time we neared the main drag. Instead of sweltering as we watched the parade, as usual, we enjoyed the gift a scudding cloud cover and a gentle wind.

Before the parade began, folks from the local bookstore, Redbery Books, handed out red balloons, to the delight of my little ones. (I expected at least one of them would lose his to the sky, but they all made it back to the house!)

Our young parade reviewers enjoyed the ten-foot tall Uncle Sam (actually the local dry-wall expert on his stilts); the Nature Center float featuring a dozen kids dressed as squirrels, fish, bears, foxes, birds and deer; a troop of proud marching veterans from the American Legion Post; dancing waiters from the Brick House Restaurant; and a dozen or so beautifully-preserved antique cars.

People on the floats tossed enough candies to give every kid in town a stomach-ache. Strolling alongside the parade, a half-dozen women passed out tiny American flags on sticks, which my angels eagerly waved with delight.

During a lull in the parade, my daughter nudged me and pointed at the black ink smudge on the stick of her flag. “Look,” she said, frowning with curiosity. “I wonder what was printed under the ink.” Then she burst into a smile. “Made in China,” she said with a giggle. “The American flags were made in China! Somebody worked hard to cover that up!”

Just as the Fire Department trucks’ sirens blared the parade’s finale, the clouds finally released their burden, and we all dashed for our cars.

On the way home, while the mothers warned their children not to eat any more tootsie rolls or lollipops or they’d spoil their lunch, I got to thinking about all the Fourth of July parades I had seen in my life, beginning with the one a few blocks from my grandmother’s house in Evanston, Illinois. One year I actually saw the stars of the Mickey Mouse club marching along next to Mickey himself.

I hoped that other parents and grandparents felt the same pride I did with every passing band, cluster of clowns or phalanx of veterans. Our country was born, built and defended by people from all over the world who hoped for a new life free from the fear of despots. Our flag is a symbol of our unity, our diversity, our strength and our growth, even if it is made in China.