“I’ve got a surprise for you,” my ever-loving spouse announced when he picked me up from the airport after one of my girls-only trips several years ago.
“What. Is. It?” I asked through flipped stomach, my mind running the gamut of possibilities. Perhaps he had painted the living room a lovely shade of lilac, or purchased a memory foam marital bed. Maybe he installed a new compost bin to reside on the back deck, you know, to make it easier for me to embrace. Or maybe he brought home a kitten, a puppy, a parakeet, or a friend for an extended stay. After all, we have the room.
“You’ll see,” he grinned. “You’ll like it.”
“I’m sure I will,” I grimaced, trying to remember how lucky I was to have a spouse who loved me.
And sure enough, as we pulled up to the front of our creaky old house, the house with the beautiful front porch, the house with the multi-colored dahlias and daisies and zinnias and marigolds lining the walkway, I saw the surprise. In all its glory.
Hanging from the brick wall, right outside my front window, the window I look out for hours and hours a day, the window from which I guard the neighborhood and measure the local puppies’ growth with every passing walk. The window from which I watch the pink dogwood tree bud, bloom, and turn back to green, while the woodpecker with the little red head pecks away. The window from which I watch the rain, the snow, the sun, as I work at my desk, stewing, sweating, cursing, and creating. Yes, hanging right outside MY window, was none other than the American Flag.
“You’re kidding,” I said and my spouse’s face fell.
I don’t have anything against the American Flag, I really don’t. I believe it should be flown on all the flag-flying holidays. And absolutely, fly it high, fly it wide outside all the state buildings and libraries and sporting arenas and VFW halls across the continent. But not on my house. And certainly not every day.
I’ve never been a God Bless America kind of girl. I’m not crazy about 4th of July parades or the Star Spangled Banner. I don’t even wear flag earrings on the holiest of holy American holidays.
But I’m not a bad person. I’m just not particularly patriotic or overly political, though it’s been hard not to be in the recent past. I live in a very normal neighborhood with very normal people and as one who cares deeply what others think of me, I didn’t want any of them suspecting I was supporting a president we all didn’t support.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” the ever-sensible spouse said. “It’s our country. Not just the Republicans. Not just the Democrats. Flying a flag doesn’t mean you lean one way or the other.”
I raised my eyebrows, went inside and was thankful to see that the living room was still intact, still that pale shade of yellow, chipping at the seams. I sat down at my desk to scrutinize the trauma I’d have to endure. The American Flag was front and center, flying, furling, blocking my view, distracting my thoughts, making my insides shake.
So, this is how it’s gone for the past too many years. My hard-working spouse rises and shines a good four hours before I do. (Though in my defense, I go to bed at least three hours after he does). He walks the beast and places the flag in its post on the wall outside of MY window. I eventually get up, cringe, go for my walk, come home, take a shower, eat my dry toast, and then very calmly venture outside, remove the flag from its holder and stash it behind the yellow wooden bench on the front porch. There is where it remains for the rest of the day while I work at my desk with a clear view and a guilty heart. Guilt, only because that spouse of mine was so proud of his surprise.
We don’t talk about the flag. It’s a silent game we play. He puts it out at 6 am. I take it down at noon. Every single day.
This morning, I broke routine. I didn’t go to the gym (it’s very safe there, I promise, and if it proves not to be I’ll be the first to admit it), I didn’t go for my five-mile walk, despite being just a half-hour from completing The Midnight Library on Audible. Instead, I would dedicate my day to watching the peaceful transfer of power.
By the time I emerged from my chambers, it was close to 10 am and the White House festivities were well under way. I filled my coral-colored Yeti with Diet Coke and settled into MY (note a pattern here) chair by the fireplace. I flipped on the TV and was greeted by a picture-less screen, blank but for a Sorry this channel is not available alert.
So, MSNBC is having technical difficulties, I thought. I’ll just watch CNN. And when CNN had the same message, I tried CBS. Then ABC. I even tried Fox. Nope. Cable down. Internet down. All of my connected Optimum devices, dead. My first thought was that it was Trump taking his last stand by crashing the system to make sure America couldn’t watch the inauguration.
But, I have something called a smart phone and was smart enough to live stream from the palm of my hand.
I have to admit, despite being a self-professed non-political person, I have never been so politically aware as I have been these past four years. I watch cable news ad nauseam and could pick Paul Manafort out of a crowd. I would tape Trump’s Rose Garden press conferences and watched him with a sort of rubber-necking incredulousness. Much to the chagrin of many family members and friends, I devoted way too much time trying to find the good side of Trump, the compassionate side, the human side.
I pretty much gave up on that for good a couple weeks ago.
I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but I have a lot of friends who did. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and even wrote a blog in November 2016 with these very words: Let’s hold on to the hope that maybe, just maybe, one day we will all look back, across our party lines, and be able to say, “He did it! He made America Great Again.” After all, stranger things have happened.
Stranger things did indeed happen.
While I watched the inauguration from my iPhone, I found tears, real tears, stealthily slipping their way down my cheeks. Being tone deaf, my love for Gaga is limited, but there was something that tugged at my heart when she belted out the National Anthem. Garth Brooks isn’t my all-time favorite country singer, but when he sang Amazing Grace, I did what I was told and sang along – albeit off-key – to Amazing Grace. I’ve never been much for poetry, but Amanda Gorman’s cadence and content changed that part of me forever. And somehow, when Jennifer Lopez, who lost my admiration when she took up with a certain ex-Yankee, sang This Land Was Made For You and Me, I believed her.
Even though I have never felt under-respected as a woman, and will never know what it’s like to be a person of color, it wasn’t until today that it hit me, really hit me, that the times they are a-changin’. And that we are one small step closer to liberty and justice for all.
When Joe Biden solemnly took his oath, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of calm. I believed with all my heart that before us stood a decent and kind human being who was there for only pure reasons, starting and ending with love of our country.
After viewing the pomp-less circumstance on my handheld device, I headed back to my unconnected laptop to do some long neglected work. I sat down at my desk, looked out my window at the furling flag, and smiled.
Today, I will let it fly.