I’d imagine that it was sometime in the middle of August 2008. It was the welcomed lull between spending a summer studying at Georgetown University and beginning my last semester of college at Oklahoma Christian University where I would graduate with honors with a B.B.A. in Marketing. My parents, I’m sure, were feeling rather proud. I, having just celebrated my 21st birthday and preparing for a highly anticipated collegiate graduation, was feeling “old” and accomplished.
On this particular afternoon, my family and I were scattered around the living room eating dinner and watching some type of sporting event – too early for football and way too soon for Olympics, so I’d imagine it was a NASCAR race. As is typically the case, a young girl took the microphone before the famous “start your engines” call. The crowd stood. Hats were removed. Hands were lifted to hearts. And everyone at home watched, holding our breath to see if she could hit the high notes of The National Anthem. I honestly can’t remember if she did, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say probably so.
At the end of the song, I casually mentioned aloud “I still have never figured out what donzerly light is.” My comment was met with blank stares. Instead of picking up on any nonverbal cues from those in the room to quit talking and act like nothing was ever said, I continued on. “I mean, donzerly light sounds so cool. So powerful and bright. Like fireworks, maybe? I think I’m going to start using donzerly as an adjective for everything. It’s an entirely under-used and under-appreciated word.”
My mother slowly whispered in her are you serious right now - please say you are kidding voice, “Emma. It’s. Dawn’s. Early. Like Dawn. Early in the morning. Dawn’s. Early. Light.”
I’m certain that my rosy red cheeks and muffled “OOOOooooooohhhhhhhh…….” were a dead give away that I was, in fact, being serious. And in that moment I felt more like Jessica Simpson than I ever had in my entire life (“I mean, is this chicken or is this fish?”). It was a particularly humbling experience.
A quick google search just taught me two important things about Francis Scott Key, the author of The National Anthem. Number One. He was a man. I always thought he was a woman. Number Two. He was from Georgetown, the city that I had been living in just before I butchered his lyrics. Full Circle Moment.
I have always been really bad at understanding song lyrics. I blame it on my parents for not exposing me to more rap music as a toddler. But the purpose of the anthem? The point of the Pledge? The meaning of the memorials? The celebrations behind the holidays? Now that I understand.
I understand it because I grew up hearing Pa tell me all about his time as a paratrooper in Japan during World War II. Pa is no longer with us, but on Monday – a Day of Memorials – my parents and I celebrated him by visiting his brick at our county’s Wall of Honor tribute to all veterans.
And just a few bricks away from his name? The name of my Great Uncle. My Granny's brother. The one who served and never came home.
My family’s roots have bred in me a deep American pride. I am in love with our country and am forever grateful for the ones who protect it. Every single day, someone is fighting for me. Someone is protecting me. Someone is making this world a better place for me. And for you. And for our children. For our present. And for our futures.
Early in January, a friend and I went to a Welcome Home ceremony at Fort Campbell. I have always recognized the sacrifice of our soldiers, but on that day my eyes were opened even more to the sacrifices at home. The children. The wives. The husbands. The fathers. The mothers. The friends. All of the people who support and love our soldiers from far away. Their sacrifice is great.
When I was little, my Granny would sneak into the closet of the front bedroom and pull out Pa’s war memorabilia when he wasn’t around. She never knew if he would like to talk about it, so she hid it from him most of the time. But she loved talking about it. Not the war. She loved talking about the wait. The homecoming. The marriage. The life built on a foundation of loyalty and American pride. She would show me the tiniest little photos that Pa had sent her from Japan. She would recall the letters that he had written to her. I would always respond with giggles and a squeal of “Granny and Pa were boyfriend and girlfriend? Ew!!!” (Because, of course, I thought that cooties were real). But Granny’s sacrifice is a familiar one to many. The sacrifice of the time. Of the wait. Of the worrying and the wondering and the praying and the flags in the yards and the yellow ribbons around the oak trees.
So at the end of our Memorial Day, after the classic American grilled meal and fancy family picnic,
And after putting together a Care Package for a local Marine serving overseas, Mom and I visited our Granny memorial.
It’s new and unfinished and still needs more flowers and a sweet little bench and an engraved stone somewhere that reads “Granny’s Garden”, but its right there on our farm. Our Granny memorial. A place to be grateful. A place to rest. A place to remember.
Thank God for the people who fight. Thank God for the people who wait. And thank God for those who remember.