Long-time readers of my blog (or since at least a year ago this month) may recall that my family is big on tradition. We know exactly where we're going and with which side of the family on each major holiday. Fourth of July brings to mind different things for the four of us Miltons: for Mom and Dad, images of BBQ from Pratt Park and margaritas dance in their heads; meanwhile, my sister and I can only dream of how much cleaning and decorating we'll all have the week before the shindig.
If you've never met my relatives, I would be willing to bet that your idea of cleaning house for a family get-together is different from mine. I am convinced my grandmother has a rare gene that has, as of yet, remained undiagnosed by modern science: it gives a person the superhuman ability to spot when something has not been Lysol'd within an inch of its warranty. In an effort to keep my grandmother bored, Mom and I agreed that this year's big project should be to "deep-clean" the kitchen floor. Point of interest: our kitchen tile was laid in the 1960s and is remarkably resistant to mopping. Our strategy, then, would involve three days, two scrub-brushes, and two-thirds a bottle of Oxy-Clean.
I went into the project with the mental image of Cinderella singing about nightingales, and felt at peace. Silly me. After the first day, I wondered why Cinderella never had bruised knees and wicked arm muscles. If she cleaned the floors on her hands and knees for the majority of her life, she should've had biceps the size of a midshipman's on the HMS Surprise and been able to carry Prince Charming across the threshold.
After completing the heavy-duty preparations, we move on to the next logical step: decorating. And yes, to keep up with the Southern Living example, we must decorate. Mom's ideas for this year involve the blue gossamer and glittery stars that were intended -and used- for our church's annual Independence Day potluck dinner on the 2nd, because she found herself in charge of decorating for both meals. Trust me, this is about as low-key as it comes for my family... one year for Thanksgiving we toyed with the idea of covering large pinecones with gold and silver spray-paint, and we have exactly zero pine trees on our property.
And amidst all the preparations and last-minute dashes to the grocery for the frozen margarita mix, I had the pleasure of attending the aforementioned dinner at church. The fellowship brought to mind the reasons why we go to such trouble of rolling out gossamer and ironing the nice tablecloths. For the first time all week, I wasn't bothered by the thoughts of which part of the kitchen floor needed scrubbing before Friday.
Then, in the middle of the dinner, we had a prayer for those serving in all the branches of the military. We have this kind of prayer every year, but this time I was deeply moved; one of my childhood friends is over in harm's way right now, and another man will soon be leaving to serve overseas while his wife and two little girls wait for him at home. Prayers for the families in particular broke my heart. I found myself to be the textbook example of seeing the forest for the trees; how could I have forgotten why I was free to scrub the floor, celebrate, and even have a church family to pray for?
How can we as Americans care so very much about American Idol and LOST, but not Presidential speeches? Why do we content ourselves with listening to public orators, stand-up comedians, and next-door neighbors who bash the government with all the conviction of the Rotten Tomatoes critics at a viewing of From Justin to Kelly? Why do we pointedly forget how we obtained the right to vote for Bush and then complain about him?
I don't want to get on my soap-box for very long. But before I put the box away, let me say this: if you're going to kick back tomorrow with friends and family, just remember to give a prayer for those who aren't able to be with theirs.
See you Friday afternoon for the annual Fourth entry... I hear there's going to be a Twilight Zone marathon this year.
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