Dear Grandkids –
This Thursday is the birthday of our country. Yep, it's the Fourth of July. It's too bad this great holiday comes in July. Because it does you don't get any days off from school. That's what makes it bad, you see; this is such a momentous day, this celebration of the birth of our nation, you should get some time off from something.
I don't know how you're going to celebrate the Fourth. I'm going to celebrate it here at my house. My back hurts and I don't want to get out. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. But I'm sure which ever parent or parents, aunts or uncles, or other grandparents decides to oversee the seven of you will have a grand old time.
One thing is sure, you won't celebrate the Fourth the way it was celebrated back when I was your age. Back then the Fourth was a neighborhood event. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton lived on the east side of our house and on the Fourth their college age sons came home for a visit. The Meadows lived on the west side. Across the street the Mr. and Mrs. Brockman lived with their son, Luther. A few doors up the street was the home of the Stokes family, Mr. and Mrs. and their kids, Sandy and Bobby. Next door to the Stokes was the home of the Minear family with their girls, Aleana and Alice (Ah, Aleana, but that a story for when you're older.). The point is that there were a lot of families with kids on our street on the Fourth of July. And everyone gathered in front of our house, out on the street for a neighborhood celebration.
We'd play baseball on the pavement. It was a serious game. Those Hamilton boys, even though they were the oldest, played for keeps. All the Moms and Dads alternated between playing and cheering. It was a day to celebrate the birth of America and Americans don't like to lose. The game was intense.
After the game the grills came out and lined the curb. Hot dogs and hamburgers were cooked by the men. The women retired to the nearest kitchens to whip up some potato salad, cold slaw, pork-n-beans, and other side dishes. There were wash tubs filled with ice, some for the adults and some for the kids. We all sat in lawn chairs or leaned our backs against the tall oak trees and enjoyed the feast.
That was back in another century. Celebrations aren't like that now. In fact, we live in a country where it's not unusual for people to not know the name of their neighbors. Back then the interaction between neighbors was the entertainment. Television was black and white and one program was pretty much like the next. It was a lot more fun to be with the neighbors.
It seems to me, kids, that for this country to survive another two hundred and thirty-seven years as the great country it has always been, there's a challenge for your generation. The challenge is this: Despite the technology on this day that makes us less dependent on our neighbors, despite the growing diversity of our population from race to national origin, despite the rigidity of the various political factions trying to gain the upper hand in governing our country, your generation must figure out a way to keep us one big neighborhood.