The Memory of a Song
Since this is my “Author Site,” I like to talk about how my poems and stories came to be. The poem I just posted on Read-Aloud, Read-Along with Susan Call Hutchison started a long time ago.
No big surprise, I was swinging at the time, in a backyard swing at my Uncle and Aunt’s. My father, mother, sisters, cousins and my grandparents were there for a Fourth of July picnic.
Dad and Uncle Bill were setting up the charcoal grill. Grandma had made her famous potato salad, and somehow Aunt Joanne was keeping an eye on all of us kids, and getting everything ready for an outdoor celebration.
My nickname back then was Skeeter. Daddy said I couldn’t stay in one place longer than a mosquito. But that day, I was happy to be on the swing. I was pumping as high as I could, enjoying the back and forth sensation, and singing along to the rhythm of the movement.
I can still hear the tune that I sang my little rhyme to: Swing high on the Fourth of July! And I remember thinking, “I will sing this song every Fourth of July for the rest of my life.” That may even have been the seed of Year-Round Read-Aloud, Read-Along Rhymes: Celebrating Holidays and Seasons.
The anticipation was intense. My mind kept going to those boxes of sparklers Daddy had bought home. We were allowed to light them only this one night of the year. Why did it take so long to get dark?
Little did I appreciate our freedoms on that day. If I had heard about war, it was something from the movies, or the story about the Star Spangled Banner — something ages ago. I was too young for the perspective of how recently WWII and the Korean War had affected everyone at our picnic. And the Declaration of Independence seemed like something from ancient history. But then, so did my grandparents.
Putting it Together
So as I sat down last year to add an American Independence Day poem to my book, I automatically heard my little swinging song, and felt again the anticipation of that long-ago celebration.
I worked with the “Swing High” theme, and added flags flying high, and fireworks soaring high. I hope I also captured some of the appreciation for liberty that has come with maturity. The desire to celebrate, and being thankful for the freedom that allows me to, blend in this newer “song”.
Here’s the result.
Celebrating the Fourth of July
How many, how many happy things
I celebrate on the Fourth of July:
Daddy and I on the backyard swings
Pretend we’re sailing to the sky.
Mama’s stirring lemonade,
Grandpa’s setting up the grill.
Picnic tables in the shade
It’s too exciting; I can’t sit still.
Swing high, on the Fourth of July!
Soaring on the summer air,
Down and back up to the sky,
Free to swing as high as I dare.
How many, how many colorful sights
March in the parade for the Fourth of July!
The brightest blues and reds and whites
Glitter as all the floats pass by.
It looks like everyone had fun
Choosing special clothes to wear
To celebrate out in the sun.
And flags are flying everywhere.
Fly high, on the Fourth of July!
Shining, red, white and blue
Proudly wave in the summer sky
Free to fly for all to view.
So many, so many happy things
I celebrate on the Fourth of July.
I’m alive, and I’m free and my glad heart sings
And I want to shout my thanks to the sky.
Waiting, waiting for it to get dark
Searching for stars in the long twilight
Stretched out on a blanket in the park
Finally, finally, now it is night.
Soar high on the Fourth of July!
Into the darkness the sky rockets soar,
Bursting in glory across the sky,
Telling the story of freedom once more.
Update: In 2014 I took the little tune I’d sung in the 60’s and expanded it to the song it now is. Click on this dotted line to hear the song!
Have a Glorious Fourth.