Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Ordinary is Cause for Celebration!

Today, I was heading up the driveway after my walk and off in the distance, I could hear the little campanile at Reiman Gardens playing its tinkly version of God Bless America. I had to laugh because it sounded so laborious. At first, I wasn't sure what I was hearing, but when I stopped to really listen, sure enough, it was God Bless America. Why was I hearing that song? Then, aha!, it was the 4th of July. Why not that song?

Several years ago, I was taking a course at Iowa State, and as I was walking across campus, I heard a playful, and vaguely familiar, tune coming from the campanile. This is the real campanile on Central Campus, the one in which a professor from the School of Music climbs the stairs daily at 11:45 AM to hammer out a recital for all to hear. I was struggling to name that tune and when I looked around, everyone seemed to be listening, walking just a bit slower with head cocked, trying to identify this song.

B-I-N-G-O! That was the tune, B-I-N-G-O. After a few refrains, there was this collective realization, a true Aha Moment!, where it clicked for all of us standing there on Central Campus. Something so ordinary and familiar from our childhood changed our demeanor as we continued on our way to class. We allowed our silly grins to show on our faces and we stepped a little brighter in celebration of this much beloved music.

With that moment of recogntion in my driveway this morning, I also realized something that I heard Garrison Keillor say the other night on "Prairie Home Companion". As he walked through the crowd in the closing moments of the show, he commented that he loved this country. At first I thought it kind of hokey, but then realized what he was really saying. It didn't have anything to do with politics, or religion, or flag-waving, or patriotism. It had everything to do with the people sitting there in his audience, listening to him spin his stories about Lake Wobegon. It had to do with the good people who live on the farms, in the cities, and everywhere in between.

For me, it has to do with the people we meet at the Highlandville Dance on a beautiful summer's evening in NE Iowa, or at the church service on Sunday morning at the Presbyterian Church Camp next to Lakeside Lab in NW Iowa. I love this country because of the people listening to the Nadas perform on this 4th of July in Bandshell Park in Ames, IA. It has everything to do with my family, friends, and neighbors who play such an important role in my daily existence here on Friley Road.

When the neighbors all got together tonight to drink beer and fresh strawberry margaritas!, to roast weenies, then watch the fireworks explode over our heads in celebration of the 4th of July, I sat back and relished how we all clicked, having been together just like this many times over the years. When I (the oldest) was holding the baby (the newest) so Mom and Dad could sit down to eat their food, I realized how good it felt to be part of something as simple as sharing food, drink, and stories. I also realized how important something as ordinary as B-I-N-G-O, or God Bless America is always and truly cause for celebration.

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