Friday, July 4, 2008

Jolly Independence Day to y'all!

I cry. What can I say? I get mushy over stuff. I've wept at every patriotic July 4th parade I've ever seen, ESPECIALLY the hometown kind with little kids in wagons draped in bunting and waving flags, that sort of thing. A military color guard waters me up every time. For all of its shortcomings (few of which are lost on me, believe it when I say!) it's not lost on me that I can say so, out loud and loudly, entirely free from worry about being drug out of my bed in the middle of the night by uniformed troopers who will then pile up all my books in the middle of the room and light them on fire.

NOTE: reference Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. If you haven't read it, or haven't read it since required to in high school, get it at the library. And while you're there, see if they have the movie, which is decent. I am SO "Edgar Allen Poe" ....

Anyway, what I'm saying is, I really feel lucky, privileged and happy to live here in America. I know, it's not like I won it by athletic prowess or superior brains; I just sort of fell into it, and in Minot, North Dakota, no less. But I feel keenly aware of How Good I Got It, and mostly of all on the 4th of July.

Tonight, we're following our annual tradition: we go over to Blackhawk Country Club (they let the peasants in for the fireworks). We go real early and put our blanket down at the top of the hill. (It's a fairly steep hill, and they set off the fireworks at the bottom, on the green.) We take a picnic...well, no, at this point it's more of a pique-nique , of little cream-cheese-and-olive finger sandwiches, chips or veggies, ice-cold lemonade and something delicate for dessert. (The tradition was started by Miss Iris von Heliotrope, who - in spite of being a teddy bear - is a naturalized citizen and feels VERY strongly about the holiday.)

Tonight friend Donna is going to join us. After we nosh we'll lounge around, knit, read and gab until The Event. I usually take Miss Iris along, a couple small flags and a mylar pinwheel. (She's very sensitive about sparklers, as she know... furred .)

But there's another tradition that happens NEAR the 4th - and that's the annual patriotic Concert on the Square; this year it was last night (i.e., the 3rd of July). It offers several opportunities for Old-Lady-Blubbering - I love it!

The Concerts on the Square are Wednesday evenings in the summer, and it seems like the whole town turns out. They're held on the lawns around the Capitol, on the Square, and they're very popular. (Yes, I know yesterday was Thursday - the planners forgot to put in for good weather on Wednesday this week, so it was postponed.) Some of the foo-foo places offer box lunches for the occasion, but people usually just bring their own grub. Some folks always spread out a white cloth, use fancy china, crystal wine glasses, &c. It's huge fun. There are always a riot of little children who delight in dancing and enthusiastic flag-waving. So anyway, we went last night.

I of course took knitting; Mr Dearling went on a walking tour before the concert, but I was delightfully entertained by watching my fellow Madisonians disport themselves with merriment and pizza as I knitted. They also played snippets, by way of warming up, starting at around 6:00 pm; the concert starts officially at 7:00. The weather could not have been better (it was that perfect sort of warm-with-cool-breeze evening that inspires Mr Dearling to declare "If there was ever a nicer day than this, it was before I was born!"). By the way - there are strategic speakers placed around by WHA Television, so that you can get the full impact even if you're sitting on the side of the Capitol away from where the orchestra is.

Before Mr Dearling got back, the program began with everyone standing for the Pledge of Allegiance (I cried) and then the "Star-Spangled Banner" (I wept). Then everyone settled down and the music began. (About then, Mr Dearling returned. He said it was "ok", but not brilliant, his walking tour.)

One nice thing about the concert is, you don't have to see anything, so you can have this wonderful live music and still knit or read or doze or play cards or drink wine -- all of which everyone does. (Mr Dearling's reading an excellent non-fiction book about Le Grand Derangement , the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia and their "relocation" in Louisiana.)

The music for this particular concert always includes medleys of good old American songs and a few Sousa marches, that sort of thing. There's a nice intermission (during which one can avail ones'self of the porta-loos or tidy up the snacks or wossname) and there is always a piece played by the young winner of a music competition; this time it was a very complex piece by Rachmaninoff played by a 15-year-old girl! We couldn't see her, as we were "around the side", but she tickled her some ivories, let me declare! Then they always play a medley of the music for each branch of the Armed Forces (get out the hanky) and ask that those members or veterans in each branch "stand and be recognized". The themes include Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. OK, by the end I'm openly blubbering, no sense saying otherwise. Really gets me.

At the end they ask all military personnel and veterans to stand at once, and there is a long, satisfying round of applause. We don't support the War here in Madison, much, but boy do we support our boys and girls in the Service. (I have a grandson in the Marine Corps; haven't talked to him for a spell, but he got an enthusiastic and blubbery round of applause for him, wherever he is.)

This concert always winds up with Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture". Talk about tear-jerker! (Have I mentioned my propensity for Overdramatic Blubbering?) First of all, I LOVE this piece of music. Believe it or not, it creates in me a Deep Yearning for Mother Russia, homeland that I love from a former life as a noblewoman in the elegant Court of Tsar Pyotr Yvanovich (I so made that up, ignore it). Second of all, part of the chorus becomes the song from my old Alma Mater, Macalester College, so it brings up a big burst of Old School Spirit. (OK, so I didn't graduate. That doesn't matter; once a Macite, always a Macite.) And third of all - they really shoot off cannons in the dramatic end part of the piece !! How dramatic is THAT? Most years they fire off the "cannons" from the top of the bank we call "the glass cash register". This year they were on the ground somewhere - and in fact, they used a faster, lighter version of the piece, not so much to my liking. I'm for the heavy, ponderous, dramatic interpretation that summons up the full richness. But it sufficed. I wept, I didn't sob. I like the one where I sob, but it was OK, I liked it well enough.

I am a fan. Of the Concerts. Of Madison. And of America - I'm unapologetic about that.


kmkat said...

I attended a Concert in the Square a few years back and got to be impressed by the 1812 and the cannons on top of the building. What a grand city is Madison ::sigh::

janna said...

Thanks so much for this post, Dale-Harriet. I totally agree - I may not like everything happening in my country right now, but it's still MY country.

Yarnhog said...

Happy 4th! It sounds like you got your teary money's worth (so to speak).

Deb said...

K - I'm crying just hearing all those songs in my head right now. At church the other day they ended with America The Beautiful (on the organ so you can imagine how LOUD it was) and I was racked with sobs. I loves me some patriotic songs!! What a great day you had even with your snooty olive and cream cheese sammies which sound sooooooo goooood!

Beary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beary said...

Beary made a mistake when he tried to type. He wanted to say hi to Miss Iris.