Maybe it’ll be a ‘Star-Spangled Summer’ again…

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Waiting for the Memorial flag to wave

I’m hoping for another ‘Star-Spangled Summer ‘– like the summer of 2002.

That was an amazing summer – it was, after all, the summer after September 11, 2001. Here we are a decade later; and I don’t even have to explain what I mean. Unless you were born on another planet, you know or will know that part of our history.

I thought, given the anniversary coming around again, that I’d share – for the third time – my column ‘Star-Spangled Summer.’

No, I still haven’t gotten back to France; I’d like to go see the flag at the Smithsonian again; I wish I’d been working on my genealogy; this Memorial Day flowers were planted at the countryside  family cemetery; and, in town — a red geranium is marking the hometown plot  of  my mom’s Civil War Veteran uncle.  In that older, overgrown- with- grass part of the cemetery, the marker seemed a little lonelier this year. Now re-reading my column, I realize it’s because the little flag isn’t yet waving beside it, as it was then.

The second article reprint was in Steve Horton’s Fowlerville News & Views in 2009. Hence the note that preceded it here:

Note: the following column was first printed in the July/August 2002 issue of Horton’s Mid-Michigan Reader, published by Steve Horton. Seven years later we cherish even more, our flag and the land over which it waves. May your summer 2009 be star-spangled and beautiful. — Susan Parcheta

Star-Spangled Summer

By Susan Parcheta

The U.S.A. is star spangled this summer…with flags appearing everywhere since 9/11. As a people, we’re reconnecting with our national symbol in diverse ways. Symbols are important as a frame of reference. But what does a flag – a piece of cloth – mean?

The French tricolore, for example – besides being the national flag – implies liberté,  égalité fraternité – hallmarks of the French Revolution.

The Stars and Stripes is by dictionary definition: “the national flag of the United States of America, consisting of 13 horizontal stripes, which are alternately red and white, representing the original States, and of a blue field, containing 50 white stars, representing the present States.”

I haven’t been to France in 30 years, and I’m curious. Could the French possibly be using their red, white and blue symbol as much as we are?

The red, white, and blue is everywhere… from grocery bags to tissue boxes, from fashion jewelry, watches and pins to articles of clothing – bathing suits, tee shirts. Even on my computer screen, a downloaded- flag wallpaper is a reminder to me to be thankful for what I have.

There are flags on kids’ clothing, on beach umbrellas, towels and picnic ware, on planters and doormats. Even wind chimes come flag-shaped. Flags are everywhere…on dinnerware, tablecloths and 34-cent stamps. I saw it displayed the other day on a TV talk show.

After 9/11, seeing the flag was comforting, as if we’re all in agreement that this symbol infuses a sense of unity within us. We cherish our flag along with the past, present and future it represents for our nation.

At times, though, Americans are accused of being ultra-patriotic, constantly flag-waving. There have been times in recent years, when it seemed un-cool to display the flag so ubiquitously.

Flag-waving doesn’t have to mean ultra-nationalism, but rather a statement of our respect for what it stands for. Right now we need to know that it’s still flying, if not physically, then symbolically in our hearts. We need assurance that the principles our forefathers fought for are alive and well.

Keeping the symbol of the flag close to our hearts is the important thing.

The Star Spangled Banner – the real star-spangled banner – is housed at the Smithsonian American Museum of History in Washington, D.C. Perhaps you’ve seen it. I had no idea it was so gargantuan. Upon viewing it this spring [visiting our daughter and son-in-law  I could barely imagine it flying over Fort McHenry when Francis Scott Key wrote the words to our national anthem.

I wish we’d had time to go to Fort McHenry, a part of the National Park Service now. We never made it during our Baltimore harbor visit in 1985 when my husband was studying in Maryland. We did tour the U.S.S. Constellation, which defended Fort McHenry in 1812.  As it says on the cobalt blue glass bottle I bought then, it was the first ship of the U.S. Navy launched in Baltimore in 1797.

I should feel a special attachment to our flag simply because one of my ancestors was a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Of course I have yet to do the required legwork to prove it with documentation. Had I done so, I could have helped my kids qualify for a college scholarship from the Descendants. I started to find out once, but busy lives got in the way. When will I ever do this? My office mate – who is very involved in genealogy — grits her teeth in frustration. She figures I’ll never get this done in her lifetime.

However, seeing the broad expanse of the Star Spangled Banner and the loving work being done on it, made me want to look back at the history of the flag and perhaps how it blended into my family and my (ancestor) Signer – William Williams. Perhaps if I toss this bottle to the waves, someone will send it back with a clue.

* * *

On Memorial Day weekend we traveled with my mom to the mid-Michigan cemeteries where descendants of those ancestors are buried. We’ve done so, time and again.

This year, the tiny Veteran’s flags waving next to the tombstones seemed to hold vastly more meaning, such as the one flying next to my mom’s uncle, whose flag was for the Civil War.

The cemetery flags wave down through the ages – symbols of that star-spangled night in 1812 and all that has followed.

One early May day we were browsing at WalMart and noticed the patriotic beach towels. A salesperson came up to us and remarked on how pretty they were, too. But then she said the same thing I’d often felt in years past.  “We never thought it would be so fashionable to wear the flag, on clothing, etc.”

Apparently, there’s been a sea change since 9/11.

After this I felt comfortable in getting out the cloth flag heart pin a friend had given me during the height of Desert Storm. Now, it seems more than just folk art to wear on the 4th of July.

I didn’t buy the beach towel, but I decided to buy a water jug with flags and hearts on it.

Keeping the symbol of the flag close to our hearts is the important thing.

This is definitely a red, white and blue summer!

Susan Parcheta is a journalist and writer who lives in Gregory.



About Susan Parcheta 102 Articles
Susan G Parcheta dreamed of being an inspirational writer, even as heading off after college to a teaching job. While teaching was not her passion, words were -- writing many years for Livingston newspapers, especially in the areas of education, health and wellness. The dream continues: to inspire creative, healthy living and to explore new concepts of body, mind, spirit. Her signature theme “All Things Beautiful” invites you to embrace the beauty and imagine the possibilities that life has to offer. She lives in Gregory with her husband, Jerry, and their fluffy, pointy-eared -- and always lovable -- cat, Spock.