If you knew anything about me, then you would know that I am a huge history buff. And my favorite subject is the American Revolution. Just the fact that the thirteen American colonies, struggling for their independence from Great Britain, were able to hold their own and eventually triumph over the greatest army in the world (that being the King’s British Army) has always filled me with awe and a sense of American pride.
I have always felt that the Americans were fighting for the right ideals— that are all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They felt the need for independence, the right to be free and govern themselves, and freedom from the tyranny of King George III.
So therefore, “celebrating our nation’s birthday” on the Fourth of July has always been a special day for me.
We usually like to celebrate the Fourth of July with a family barbecue in our back yard, which is not unusual for the typical American family. There’s always plenty of food, great company, tons of games, and lots of laughter. Just being together as a family is celebration enough. And we always display our American flag at the front of our house with pride.
But one of the best Fourth of July celebrations that we ever had occurred when our oldest daughter, Sarah, was ten. She started a tradition for our entire neighborhood which lasted for a few years, and we were amazed by her creativity and the patriotic spirit which she displayed.
When Sarah was ten years old, she was thrilled with parades. We had been to see a parade only the week before the Fourth of July, and Sarah had loved every minute of it. Here favorite part was the marching bands. After seeing that parade, she became obsessed with them. She would march around the house, banging on anything she could find. She would even enlist the help of her younger sister, Stephanie, to be in her parade.
Then we went to our community’s Fourth of July Parade on July 3rd, and that is what inspired our little Sarah to begin a new neighborhood tradition. The morning after the parade, she came to me and said, “Mommy, why don’t they have a parade on our street like the one we watched yesterday?”
“Well, I don’t know. I guess it’s just not the route they wanted to take.”
“I think we should have a parade on our street.”
“I know, honey, but they just don’t want to use our street. There’s nothing we can do.”
With this, she went outside to ride her bike. She had just learned to ride her bicycle without training wheels, a fact which she was very proud of. I watched as Stephanie trailed behind on her tricycle. We live on a street that doesn’t get any through-traffic, so it’s a very quiet and safe street. About ten minutes later, Sarah returned to the house.
“Mommy, I wanna have a parade on our street.”
“I know, honey, but the parade doesn’t go down our street.”
“No, Mommy, I wanna have a parade down our street. Me.”
“You? What are talking about, Sarah?”
“I think we should have a parade with me and all the kids in the neighborhood. We could go up and down the street and have a parade, just like the big parade we saw last night.
I looked at my husband. He raised his eyebrows and smiled at me. You could hear the enthusiasm in Sarah’s voice. It was actually a pretty good idea.
“You know what? I think that’s a great idea! Maybe you could decorate your bikes. I have some crêpe paper left over from the birthday parties. . .”
“Yeah,” my husband interjected, “and we could decorate the wagon and you could put the cassette player in the wagon and have music playing. Then we could get the parents to sit on the lawns and watch while you kids parade down the streets.”
“Really?” Sarah squealed, jumping up and down. “That would be great! I’m gonna go tell everybody!”
So she rounded up all the kids in the neighborhood who had not gone out-of-town for the holiday. It was strange, but it seemed as though hardly anyone had left that particular year for the Fourth of July. I didn’t have enough decorations for all the bikes and wagons, so my husband went to the local K-Mart, which is always open, and picked up everything, including party decorations, because we were going to have a surprise party on our lawn for the kids when they were finished with their parade. The kids were occupied for a few hours, decorating their bikes and having fun just being kids.
Then it was time for the big parade. All the kids had notified their parents, and everyone in the neighborhood brought out their lawn chairs and lined the streets, sitting down to watch the big parade. The kids started at one end of the street and marched down, soon turning the corner, with the music playing. I had been amazed that I managed to find a tape of marching music.
Soon they came marching towards us, with Sarah leading the way. Our daughter, Stephanie, was right behind her because she was pulling the wagon which had the cassette player. The wagon otherwise was filled with stuffed animals and decorated with crêpe paper and balloons. There must have been almost twenty kids in the parade, all of varying ages, on bicycles and tricycles, roller blades and even skateboards. Some of them carried little American flags that I had given them, but all of them smiled as they paraded down the street, waving at the parents who had come out to watch them.
When they finished the parade, we invited all the kids to our house for root beer floats. We had set up the picnic table on our front lawn, complete with a Fourth of July theme table-cloth, napkins, and balloons. They had a wonderful time, laughing, giggling, and talking about how great the parade had been and who had done the best job decorating their bicycle or tricycle.
The neighborhood parade continued for three more years, until Sarah outgrew it. Then she grew weary of it, and sadly, no one else stepped forward to take her place as the leader.
But as a family, we still have root beer floats every Fourth of July, no matter what, and as we do, we reflect on those days gone by.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it.” ~ John Naisbitt