Children – young children – don’t notice the dirt under someone’s fingernails … especially when they’re handing you a slice of birthday cake. And if they do, they don’t think much of it other than that the said someone needs to wash their hands.
When I was young – say six, seven … nine, ten – my summers were spent at my great aunt’s and uncle’s house. And it was there, amongst the honey bees and clover, that I developed my raw patriotism. It was there, where buttered white bread (and every now and then a can of creamed spinach) was served with every meal, where Marty Robins’ and Loretta Lynn’s voice echoed from the record player, where us kids (my cousins and I) jumped off river rock into “our very own” swimming hole, where people took their hats off during the National Anthem, where men shook hands with boys, where dirt under someone’s fingernails, to the young child that I was, meant only that they needed to wash their hands …
It was also there, that come every fourth of July there would be a parade speckled with local citizens, a pancake breakfast sponsored by the town’s fire department, a plethora of strawberry Crush on ice, and a fireworks display that would make the fireflies and fairies alike jealous. It was there that our country’s birthday was more than reason enough to celebrate. More than reason enough to have cake and ice cream.
When I remember those days … those hot hours spent hunting crawdads, picking wild blackberries, playing baseball with anyone and everyone who would show up … I can’t help but remember my uncle’s hands – the same hands where I now notice the dirt that sits tattooed under his fingernails. Dirt from work. From the kind of hard work that is America. The kind of work that hurts your back, sunburns your face and leaves calloused hands and blistered feet … but also, at the end of the day, leaves you smiling – happy to be American. Proud to live in a country where dirt under your fingernails means something more than you just need to wash your hands.
Happy birthday America– and while you drink your beer and light your child’s sparkler, remember not only the men and women who fought and fell, but also those that live the battle here at home every single day … remember the one’s who build our nation, out cities, our streets … remember the ones with dirt under their fingernails.
Today’s post inspired by love and admiration … brought to you by The Daily Post: It’s Your Party. “Since many are marking their country’s “birthday” in the US today, we wanted to ask: How do you celebrate yours? Are you all for a big bash, or more of a low-key birthday boy/girl?”