I am a flag-waving patriot. I have said this before and I will repeat it again. I love my country. I cry each time I hear the National Anthem. I cry when I hear America the Beautiful, I cry at each patriotic song I hear. I admit it freely. And, I am looking forward to tomorrow. Inauguration Day. A day that happens every four years. A celebration of what the Founding Fathers fought for, dreamed of, worked for. It’s a great thing to celebrate.
Tonight as I was thinking of the inauguration, I remembered the first inauguration I can remember. I was five, just about to turn six. I was in first grade at St Joseph’s elementary school. The date was January 20, 1961. The first Roman Catholic president was going to take the oath of office.
It was a school day. In January. In northwestern Pennsylvania. A snowy, cold day. I took my lunch to school, so that normally meant you ate in the lunch room in the basement of the school and then you went out onto the ‘playground’ which was the church parking lot and you froze for the hour while the nuns went to the convent and had lunch.
January 20, 1961 was different though. The nuns wanted to see the inauguration. Somehow they managed to have the kids who brought their lunch go home with those who didn’t. We had an extended lunch hour. I got to go home with a girl who has ended up being one of my oldest and dearest friends. I took my lunch pail to her house and, along with my dried sandwich, I had a bowl of hot soup. What a treat for me. I got to take off my shoes and sit down on something comfortable and be in a home. I will never forget it. I sat in the kitchen and her mom talked with us and gave us fresh cookies.
We moved into the sewing room where her grandmother stayed and we watched the president being sworn in. I confess that the only thing I actually remember is watching a bunch of old people on the television talk. The best thing about it all was the actual cocoa I was drinking in the middle of the day.
The soup, the cookies and the cocoa took precedence over the President asking us not what the country can do for us, but what we could do for the country. (My interpretation).
So, tomorrow, I will watch our new president take the oath of office. I will feel pride in my country. I know countless others do not feel this way, and that grieves me. I have spent time living overseas. During those years I missed being home. Yes, I was on a base under an American flag and I was supporting my husband as he served this country. But, I was homesick for our country. It is hard to put into words the longing I had for home while I was there. Home is more than a shelter you live in. Home is the country you are born in. It is the familiarity of a nation. Yes, I have disagreed with much in the past few years, but, I respect the office of the presidency. It is an office that deserves respect regardless of who it is sitting behind that desk. Our founding fathers fought for the right for people to disagree. They fought for the right to have a peaceful transition of power. So, tomorrow, I will celebrate the freedom we have. The freedom to cry tears of joy and pride over a national anthem. The freedom to feel pride at a new president. The freedom to pray for the former president, pray for his continued safety and for his rest from his service.
It has been a year of struggle for our country. I pray tomorrow the struggles will start to calm down. There will always be differing views and some loud voices raised on both sides, but, for me, for tomorrow, I am choosing to rejoice in America. Rejoice in the fact that we can experience tomorrow, the swearing-in, the transition, the protests. It is all American. May God bless this country and keep it safe.
~ Cathi (DAF)