It is not quite the Fourth of July, but already the town is gearing up for the annual house decorating contest. The prize is quite nice: several hundred dollars, your picture in the local paper, and a ride down Indian Hill on the back of a convertible behind a group of baton-twirling teens. Lots of people enter. Past winners prove that unless your house looks like Uncle Sam vomited stars and stripes across your entire property, you aren’t getting anything. Tasteful is not in the vocabulary of the selection committee. Tasteful guarantees failure.
There is a real contender on the way to my grandfather’s house. Swags of bunting hang from the garage and over the doorway. Full flags swing in the breeze from the rafters of the house, and they have purchased white vinyl banners that proclaim “God Bless America.” One is pointed north and the other south, so that all directions of traffic can see them gleaming. Their lawn is lined with flags suck upright in the earth. These are not the small flags people put on picnic tables or wave in their hand. These flags are over four feet long, fluttering high in the breeze like some nightmarish fence.
“Oh my God,” said Brian when we drove past. “I can’t even… there are just no words for it.”
“It’s the contest,” I said, “and that’s hilarious!”
“Hilarious is not the word I would use,” said Brian.
“Ok, how about ‘Murica,” I said.
But secretly, I sympathize with them. There is only one time a year that my embarrassing enthusiasm for the Revolutionary War is allowed full flower, and that is July. I will hang out my reproduction ’76 flag, pull my tricorn hat over my curls, and prepare to spend most of the day singing Stars and Stripes Forever. The only thing that would make this holiday better is cannons. I stop at full displays in the yard, but I understand the impulse.
I could not find the owner of the quote, but somebody said “Patriotism is love of one’s country, despite one’s leaders.” Isn’t it nice, for just one day, to put aside all feelings about the government and just revel in the well-worn, tacky symbols of our origin? If there was ever a time for this sort of display, the time is now. I’ll be searching for shoe buckles next week.