A Little More: Red, white and blue

Filed under: Holidays, Special Needs

"You look like a flag," my husband Tom tells me and I smile, because I know what he means. We go through this every summer in the days leading up to the 4th of July. It's a bit ridiculous, I know: cheesy and sentimental and a little over-the-top. But I can't help it.

I dress myself in red, white and blue.

It's my summer compulsion--just as surely as the days become progressively warmer, the color red pushes its way toward the front of my closet. Combine it with the already-busy whites plus the blue of my trusty jeans, and you've got the makings of an American flag.

Tiny white stars on a red background begin to appeal to me this time of year; alternating stripes of blue on a white background (or is it white on a blue background?) look lovely. And for this brief time at the beginning of July, I see red, white and blue everywhere: red flip-flops, red bandannas, ripe, red strawberries in the grocery store. Blue skies, blue jeans, plump blueberries the size of marbles. White puffy clouds, white petunias, white whipped cream. You know where this is heading, right? A resplendent vanilla flag-cake in the fridge, which is a whole new level of flaginess--not only am I wearing it, but I'm eating it, too.

I'm not usually this way. I don't have a closet full of Halloween costumes, or sweaters with hearts. I don't have any Kelly green; no pastels, no turkeys, no snowmen. Which makes my flag-clothes all the more surprising.

I could go back to the beginnings, my own childhood, when I remember my mother, my sister and I wearing matching, home-made outfits. Or perhaps it came later, in high school, during team spirit days, when everyone dressed in our school's colors.

Or maybe it began the day Tom and I became engaged to be married. It was July 4. As he slipped a gold band on my finger, we joked that everyone else's Independence Day was the day we chose to declare our dependence on each other. The ring was embedded with white diamonds and blue sapphires that twinkled in the summer sunshine.

Later still came parenthood, and other realizations: that there were places where my marriage would have been arranged for me, without my consent. That women in other countries didn't have the right to choose their family size. That even now, parts of the world do not recognize a woman as anything more than property.

And this: my middle son Avery, who was born with Down syndrome, came home to live with us. Fifty years ago, it wouldn't have been possible, even in the United States. Babies with Down syndrome were routinely sent to institutions. Today, there is no question--our children belong at home with their families.

I wear my freedoms every day--as an educated woman, as wife to my husband, as a mother of 3. They form the fabric of my life and are so much a part of it that often, I take these blessings for granted.

But not this week. The red, white, and blue in my closet has pushed itself forward. We'll go to the parade and set up lawn chairs along the sidewalk and wave tiny plastic flags; we'll eat hot dogs and 7-layer salad and half-slices of watermelon like smiles and little squares of flag-cake for dessert; we'll stay up too late watching the fireworks explode in brilliant colors across the night sky and all the while, I'll be outfitted in my flag-clothes, dressed in my country's colors, wearing my heart on my sleeve.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.