I had a great love in my life. I was in my early twenties and had just arrived in New York City from the cornfields of the University of Nebraska. He was ten years older than me, on his way to success, and further along in the “being a grown-up” arena. He was handsome, smart, funny and incredibly energetic — the kind of energetic that took others along for the ride. During one of the first marathons in New York City, he had his two kids and me out on the streets of First Avenue handing out water to the runners and cheering them on for hours … like four hours. We were more tired than the runners, but his joy in their success and spurring them on was something to behold, and we joined it. In the end, he dumped me (rightfully so — it wasn’t our time), but I never forgot the best weekend I’ve ever had in New York, a weekend that he brought to me.
It was the 200-year celebration of our country, July 4, 1976. Seems like yesterday to me, and in this time of turmoil and strife among all our countrymen and -women, I find myself reliving it a bit this year. I find myself yearning for it. Civil unrest in the South, Watergate, and Vietnam were all behind us. Ford was our leader and I now appreciate steady and boring in a new way. We were still reeling but the future looked mighty bright. And, that weekend …
The tall ships came through the New York Harbor, and we were there watching them in awe. Everyone was together though they didn’t know one another, and as the ships majestically sailed up the Hudson (or was it down the Hudson), we all knew what a journey we had as a country to get to this moment. There were festivities in the streets. There was food from all the other countrys’ patchwork fabrics that make up this country: Italian, French, English — and even hot dogs (oh yeah, baby). There was a searing fireworks display with a live version of “Stars and Stripes” that set the bar so high for love of country during fifteen minutes of explosive glitter that I have never ever come close to that feeling in other celebrations. It was three days of running all over the city via the subway to make sure we didn’t miss a moment. There were private moments too that bonded the entire weekend together, and it felt as if we were among citizens who all had the same love of country and yet, at the same time, it was just the two of us experiencing it together. To this day, it remains a weekend in my top ten of all my time.
You see, another great love of mine is my country. I am devastated by the division of our people — myself included. I am ashamed that I haven’t more empathy for those that see things so very differently from myself. I don’t think about Trump much, unlike others from my neck of the woods. He is one person who is filled with something I don’t wish to be around. I think about the millions of people who like his point of view, and that they are Americans too. That’s who I think about, and I realize that on that weekend forty-two years ago, there must have been many of those people there hugging us in the streets standing as one.
And, so I realize that something happened in those forty-two years that sent us to different corners of America. What was it? And, where was I living that I didn’t see this coming?
I will ponder it all tomorrow, but for today I’m going to remember that weekend in 1976 and how utterly perfect it was, and that we all asked God to bless the same America.