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7.04.2013

Long May She Wave

I'd to share a story about the American Flag...
or rather, my own collection of American flags.

I have several of them.
One is an old boat flag, hand-sewn, with embroidered stars,
which formerly flew on a Chris Craft yacht. (Hopefully on Lake Tahoe)
There are a few others that aren't valuable, or special,
but have been flown with love and pride by me - and by people before me.
Because I bought them all at thrift and vintage stores.

One has a tattered hem - and yes, I still use it inside my home.
Please don't preach to me about 'the flag code'.
That tattered flag may have flown at the home of a veteran.
It may have hung on the wall of an immigrant family for generations.
I don't know the actual history of that flag, but it has one.
It shows the signs of being hung with pride for many years...
and I think it has more value with a tattered hem
than any brand new flag imported from China.

It reminds me of the flag
that Francis Scott Key described in one verse of our national anthem:
"And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"

It survived a battle. And kept on waving. A sign of strength and courage.
It certainly wasn't clean and pressed and without tears, rips, stains, and holes.


I don't think something that has been used and loved, and that still stands for something,
should be burned or buried just because it's not 'perfect' anymore.
I don't believe that there is only one way to show patriotism.
Or one way to display a flag with honor and pride.
That's my personal belief.

This story is about what my son DID with my flags.
And the memory of it means something to me, and says something to me,
about the man he was becoming and the immense pride for this country
that runs in his bloodline. In MY bloodline.
Because you see, George Mason is my ancestor.
He was the writer of the Virginia Bill of Rights - which were incorporated into
the Bill of Rights for our fledgling country back in 1775.
I possess pride and gratitude for the part he played
in founding this country of ours.
I display my collection of flags with reverence for that contribution.
In remembrance of my grandfathers and uncles who served in the Navy,
and my dad who served in the Marines.
And though my son has not served in the military,
he did something heroic that I honor each time I hang my flags...
__________________________________

click the 'read more' link for the story...


In 2001, my son was a junior in high school.
We lived in a small town in Washington state,
 the kind of place where the high school kids hold 
a Homecoming Parade on the main street every fall,
with football players (including my son) riding on fire engines
and cheerleaders riding in convertibles. 
The marching band plays, the flags spin,
the entire school empties and walks down the streets 
displaying their Panther Pride for the whole assembled town.
The Snohomish Serpentine is tradition and history and pride.

I never knew how deep my son's pride ran...

On the morning of September 11, 2001
my kids left for high school and I was cleaning house.
My husband called me from his workplace,
to tell me what had happened in New York.
I didn't believe him. 
I thought he had misunderstood.
The World Trade Center could not be GONE.

Because we had just moved into a new house the week before,
we didn't have cable yet. No TV. No News.
I turned on the radio and listened to the accounts.
I had vivid pictures in my mind from what I heard.
I was terrified.

A few hours later, I had to leave to go to work

before my kids came home from high school... which I didn't like.
I had to drive fifteen miles to a well-known winery,
where I was on the staff for a corporate event.
Frankly, every one of us who had to work that night
were surprised that it hadn't been canceled.
It was a dinner for over 100 HR Managers for a large locally-based
computer company. 
They were at the nearby headquarters/campus for a conference, 
and had come from several other countries as well as the US.
We were told they had no where else to go for dinner, 
so the event was not canceled.

The staff was quiet, hushed, wanting only to be home
with our families to absorb the news and comfort one another.
Many of my friends and co-workers had seen news reports
and images of the devastating events of the day.
I hadn't yet.

One hour into the dinner event, these 100 HR managers
STARTED A FOOD FIGHT.

They tossed bread and flicked vegetables across tables,
and laughed their heads off like children in a lunchroom.

Not one of those people assembled stood up
to say 'ENOUGH!'. NOT ONE.

The supervisor of our staff quietly gathered us,
and instructed us to begin removing all wine and utensils from the tables.
And we did. 
The 'guests' got mad when we took the wine away. 
Then our supervisor stood in front of them and calmly announced
that the event was over. 
Their buses were out front and they needed to go now.
If I remember correctly, she used the words 'evacuate the facility'.
The crowd dispersed loudly but quickly, and left.

The dozen staff members and four kitchen staff stood together,
and cried. We hugged. And we said goodbye
to head home to our families.
We all knew that we'd back our supervisor
if anything was ever said about the way the event ended.
We were just glad it HAD ended.

I drove the fifteen miles home
in complete amazement and anger 
that those 100 people had behaved so badly,
so callously, in the face of what had happened in the world that day.

As I drove around the corner and onto our street in our little town,
after midnight,
I looked at our house and saw the most amazing sight...

My son, seventeen years old,
had rummaged through my (many) bins in the attic,
and found all of my vintage American flags.
He hung one in EVERY window in our house,
and turned the lights on in every room.
And he had put the largest one
on the whip antenna of his truck in the driveway.
The house glowed like a beacon 
of Patriotism, Hope, Pride, and Reverence
for all those who had lost their lives that day.
For everyone who had lost hope that day.
For the innocence we all lost that day.

I had to stop my car in the street 
because my eyes were so filled with tears that I could not see.
I finally parked and ran inside, 
to find my family huddled around the television.
My husband had hooked up the cable 
and he and two of our kids were watching live news coverage
and taped film of the collapse of the towers.

It was the first time I had seen it, 
and I fell to my knees on the floor. 
The 'vivid images' my mind had conjured earlier that day
hadn't even come close to the devastation I was watching.
My son put his hand on my shoulder,
and we cried.

I was even MORE angry at those HR Managers at that point.
I will never understand their reaction that day.
A seventeen year old high school boy grasped the meaning,
the solemnity, the horror of it all.
And could not help but show his emotions in a way that honored the victims.
That honored what our country stands for, and
what his family history meant to him.

A man was born that day.
He is a good man, a proud man,
and a man that his parents are very proud of.
Hopefully he knows that, without question.
And if he doesn't, well, then I will keep telling this story until he does...



Every time I hang a flag, I think of that night over a decade ago.
I remember the look in my son's eyes.
And I remember the pride he displayed.
It didn't matter that one of the flags he hung had a tattered hem...

it still stood for honor, for strength, for courage, for freedom.

It seems to me that the flag that was erected at the fallen World Trade Center

late in the evening on 9/11
was pulled from a ship in the damaged marina, and had dirt smudges and a torn hem...
but it wasn't decried as being unlawful or disrespectful.
On the contrary, it was called 'heroic'.

Our country has some tattered edges.

But America still stands for honor, for strength, for courage, for freedom.
So does our flag.  

No matter what condition it is in when we fly it with pride, or how or where we hang it.

Long May She Wave...


I wish you all a Happy Independence Day...
God Bless America, land that I love.



 for more decorating ideas for every season,

  visit the HOMEWARDfound blog 

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11 comments:

  1. Tears as I read your post, Deb! Completely understand and copy the respect you carrry for the American flag! What a fine son, you have! Enjoy the 4th - and all of it's glorious meaning to us fellow Americans!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Shari... I am very proud of my son, for many reasons! Happy Fourth to you, as well - and God Bless America!

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  2. I loved the story, Deb. How cool that your son thought to do all that. I've got a tattered flag, a huge one, that I found once, and thought I should have the boy scouts do whatever they do with them. But I think after reading your story, I'm going to keep it. I've got to imagine that, after the dinner, those people went back to their rooms, viewed the same horror that we all saw, and felt really, really low about what they did. Thank you for sharing.

    patty

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    Replies
    1. Patty, thank you so much for your thoughts.

      BTW, I"ll be clear that I would not display my tattered flag hanging out in front of my home for public view - mostly because so many people like to take umbrage at something like that. I do, however, use it inside my home because of my strong feelings about its history. We each have the right to make our own decisions in how we express ourselves inside our homes. ;)

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  3. Thank you for sharing! God bless you. Amy

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    Replies
    1. Amy, thank you - and God Bless You, too!

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  4. My goodness, Deb, what a post. I too have tears, thank you for sharing this story. It should be published, it is so beautiful. Xo

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    Replies
    1. Lidy, thank you so much, my friend... it was a bit scary to do this heartfelt post, sharing a bit more about me and how the things I use to 'decorate' with have special meaning to me. And why. I thank you and all of the other lovely readers who have left such kind comments. I am glad that this piece of my family history touched hearts!

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  5. You raised a wonderful man! I'm typing through tears my friend. such a touching story.

    Enjoy your weekend!
    Leann

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    Replies
    1. Leann, thank you so much for your kind words! I certainly tried....

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  6. A wonderful story, such a nice young man you have to be proud of. I will always remember that day forever.

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