Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day Memories, I Think...

A few months ago Natalie and I were listening to the RhettandLinKast and the theme was "Anchor Phrases". Anchor phrases, according to R&L, are phrases people throw into their speech out of habit...perhaps to keep their flow of speech moving along, or to retain possession of the conversation, or just to have something to say instead of "um". They gave some examples...a dentist who says "per se" all the time, for instance. Feel free to watch the episode for more examples which, of course, will be much more funny from them than from me.

Anyway, (watch and see if you can spot the Cat's anchor phrases!) I started thinking about anchor phrases I've used and anchor phrases I've heard others use, and this meandering thought process took me back to an Independence Day in my childhood. The thing is, there are several parts of this day that I'm sure I am remembering fundamentally correctly. But there is one feature of the day, a highlight for me, that may or may not have really happened.

I was somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12, we were living in either Springfield or Berlin, Illinois, and on this particular 4th of July we celebrated by going to a cookout at the home of some people I didn't know very well. They were friends of friends, or maybe friends of relatives, at any rate we had friends in common and were therefore invited to the festivities. They lived either on or near a farm in the country somewhere around Springfield. The family consisted of a mom and dad and three children; there were two boys who were quite a bit older than me (possibly college age) and one girl close to my age.

I don't remember a whole lot about the evening. I assume that we ate hamburgers and hot dogs and didn't eat Aunt Delores' three bean salad. I assume we played with the other children there, although I really don't remember there being a lot of children around. The following are the two really clear memories I have.

The host asked one of the men to pray before the meal. I don't know if we had met this man before, but I think he was part of the crowd of miscellaneous friends who hung around with my aunt and uncle. Usually when you're a kid and you're being forced to hold still long enough for someone to pray before you get to go pounce on the food, you don't pay much attention to the prayer. But this man's prayer became burned in my memory because of his extreme overuse of an anchor phrase. His anchor phrase was "dear heavenly father", a phrase one would normally expect to hear only at the beginning of the prayer. This man was not content to leave it at that, and this is how I remember him praying, This, by the way, is an abbreviated version. I believe he went on at greater length and prayed for the missionaries in foreign lands and everyone he knew who was sick or suffering some way.

"Dear heavenly father, we thank you, dear heavenly father, for these friends, dear heavenly father, who have come together, dear heavenly father, to celebrate the founding of our country, dear heavenly father. We thank you, dear heavenly father, for the freedom to worship you, dear heavenly father, and the blessings you give us in this country, dear heavenly father. We ask you, dear heavenly father, to bless those who don't have our freedoms, dear heavenly father, and those in foreign lands, dear heavenly father. We thank you, dear heavenly father, for the food, dear heavenly father, that we are about to eat, dear heavenly father, and we ask, dear heavenly father, that you would bless the hands that prepared it, dear heavenly father. Thank you, dear heavenly father, for the fellowship, dear heavenly father, we are enjoying tonight, dear heavenly father, and thank you for the X family, dear heavenly father, and their hospitality, dear heavenly father, to us, dear heavenly father. Please bless us, dear heavenly father, and be with us, dear heavenly father, as we enjoy this time, dear heavenly father, together. Amen."

The second memory is the one I am not sure about, and I'm hoping one of my brothers can either verify that this actually happened or tell me I was hallucinating. After we ate dinner we ran around and played some more, and then after night fell our host and some of the other men put on a fireworks show. That part I am 99% sure of. In that time and that place, an amateur fireworks display would have been fairly common. However, I remember those fireworks as being super impressive, and I wonder now if that would have been possible.

Perhaps these were the first fireworks I had ever seen and I remember them as being bigger and better than they actually were? In particular, I remember fireworks that formed shapes as they exploded, and most particularly a huge finale that featured an American flag. It wasn't just a few rings of red, white, and blue exploding simultaneously. It wasn't a shower of red, white, and blue fountain fireworks. As I remember it, it went up and lit up as a perfect US flag formation.

To my adult mind, that does not seem possible, and I've never seen it since. It seems quite unlikely that, if such a thing is/were possible, it would have been possible for a handful of amateurs in a field in central Illinois. So I'm wondering if it was really a mixture of red, white, and blue rings and someone said "Oh look, it's like the American flag!" and my mind created this image that is more real in my memory than what actually happened. So, what say you, Jim and David? Do either of you remember this? Anyone else out there with knowledge of the history of fireworks who would know if this would have been possible in the 1970s?

Anyway, since this post began with Rhett and Link, and since we believe in supporting local, organic, and sustainable comedy, it only seems fitting to end by featuring the Fireworks Song video. Enjoy!


amanda said...

I know people with anchor phrases, and I am sure I have anchor phrases, as well as uhm...

I remember seeing a special on fireworks when I was a child. The show explained how they were set up and then worked for the show. This show had fireworks that exploded into shapes. (This is what I expected in DC, but the DC fireworks were bursts of color. They were pretty but not extravagant. I will probably post photos on my travel blog.)

Jim said...

Beth, I don't remember that particular Independence Day, but I'd guess it was at the Workman's place (if anywhere).

I don't think technology exists today to do that detailed of a fireworks display at the sub-$1M price point. It certainly didn't exist in the 70's.

I was commenting to Julia Saturday night that the "slower" portions of the Red, White, and Blue Ash fireworks were bigger, faster, and (obviously) much more expensive than the finale of any fireworks display we had ever seen in our youth. I wouldn't be surprised if more powder is burnt in one of today's big finales than in all the shows combined on any 1970's-era Independence Day.

Bottom line: you were hallucinating. :)

(Perhaps you had a little of that three-bean salad after all?)

Beth said...

No, it wasn't the Workmans; the people were named Edwards but I'm not able to come up with first names for them. They were friends with the Unterbrinks, maybe he worked with Bob U. I remember them both as being very tall (of course I was probably 8 or 9, so most adults were tall) and I think she might have had red hair.

If I ate the three-bean salad it was under duress and it was the only time. :) What an awful concept. Take three kinds of canned beans, drain them, combine them and put salad dressing on them...bleahh...

David said...

Beth, I don't remember that either. It may be just another memory I blocked, but I doubt it ... this one sounds like fun. I do remember the three bean salads, which was usually the only food available after the KFC chicken was selfishly consumed by the alpha relatives who were first in line. I suppose I could have been as young as 5 or so, so maybe I don't remember. I do remember the Pontiac kidnappers, but then they were downright entertaining young dudes.

Beth said...

What insane person (or marketer of canned beans) decided it would be tasty to mix green beans, wax beans, and kidney beans fresh from the cans together and add salad dressing?

You remember the kidnappers? Wow! You were, what, 3 or 4? I can't remember if I was in 1st or 2nd grade when that happened. I know we got Sparky after that, but I'm not sure how long we had her before we moved.

Natalie said...

So...I get the feeling this will be an unpopular opinion, but I like three bean salad. At least when it's got homemade dressing stuff on it. :)

Jim said...

So... where's the exotic new template and the new approach to blogging that won't make everyone angry?



I'm still WAITING! (said with a slurred English accent, of course)