By Doris Schroeder
Freedom means different things to different people. Sometimes we forget to thank God for the fact that we are living in America, enjoying many more freedoms than we deserve. We forget the sacrifice of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the soldiers who have given their life to keep these freedoms alive and our ancestors who, with great courage, moved their families to the United States of America so they, too, could enjoy life in the best sense of the word. Too often, we take our freedom to worship God for granted, as well as the fact we have a God who created us and wants us to follow Him so we can be truly happy.
My very first memorable 4th began on a hot, muggy July day. The calendar on the wall at my grandparents’ (Lange) house on the Buhler Main Street, had 1937 on it. The flies swarmed around the screen door of “Little Grandma’s” house. The chatter of my cousins was audible through the open door, so I ran ahead of my parents, throwing open the door with such abandonment that some of the pests infiltrated the house.
My Uncle Herb was soon standing by the door, swishing a fly swatter right and left, mumbling something about “kids these days!” Of course I did not recognize my part in the fiasco, and ran into the middle bedroom where my young relatives were draped around the bed, talking.
“Did you bring any firecrackers?” my cousin Dickie asked. “We get to do fireworks tonight!”
My blond, bobbed hair shook negatively. My four-year-old mind was pleased that my older cousin would even think me capable of lighting a firecracker. I hated anything with a bang since my older sister Luella was accidentally killed with a gun the year before. “If he just knew how scared I am of those things!” I thought. “But I’ll never let him know!”
Even the little town of Buhler was exciting on a holiday. Life was still simple and nice and uncomplicated. Kind of like leftover mashed potatoes when you’re really hungry.
Talking ceased momentarily as my grandfather stood at the doorway, glaring at us. He had a certain look about him, due to his bad eyesight, that always made me speechless. He was a commanding figure who worked as a miller at the Dixie Lily Flour Mill in Buhler.
Grandpa Peter Lange must have experienced an exciting life, moving his family from Germany to Russia to escape the militarism of that day. Then to move them to the United State took a lot of gumption. My mom was even born on the ship coming over.
He didn’t talk much, at least that I remember. That was probably because he could only speak German. I was always in awe of him, as were my other cousins. That is, all of them but Dickie. He’d always say something a little smart-alecky to him and I trembled at his audacity.
Soon Little Grandma was bustling around, putting supper on the big dining room table. She was so little but so mighty, always serving people and dashing around as a dynamo of energy, entirely inconsistent with her petite frame. Family dinners were huge platters of food, elegantly served on a white tablecloth; good china and the Jell-O served in exquisite champagne glasses and topped with real whipping cream.
Later, all the grown ups sat outside on dining room chairs, I don’t know if lawn chairs had even been invented at that time. As dusk began to fall, Main Street became an extravaganza of staccato sounds…pop, pop, pop.
That was the year I was introduced to the sparkler. At first I was sure the shooting sparks would certainly burn up my hand, but not wishing cousin Dickie to know of my fear, I gingerly picked one up and swirled it around a few times. When I found out the sparks didn’t hurt one bit, I was fascinated with the designs I could make in the sky.
Soon my cousin Dorothy and I were artists of the night sky, swirling every design we could imagine. We were overjoyed with this new invention. It was hard to contain our amazement.
When the supply of sparklers diminished, I crawled up on my Dad’s lap and watched the neighbor kids down the block light up some special fireworks. There was no traffic down the main street of Buhler that night as people sat out in the warm night air.
Some of my uncles turned the crank on the ice cream freezer by the back porch, and we were all brought whopping dishes of homemade ice cream, along with some crackers to “take away the sweet taste.”
The stern silhouette of my Grandfather Lange against the summer night sky seemed fitting. We should celebrate our country’s freedom with the relative who had the courage to move his family across the ocean to the “land of the free!” This is the taste of freedom we have enjoyed since our birth.
God has been good to us and our country. Let’s remember to thank him for all the freedoms we still enjoy. Let this be the year the sparkle of our prayers grace the dark sky of America!
Doris appreciates your remarks at dorisschroeder @att.net