Margaret’s Musings: July 4th Remembered

As a Loudoun County resident since 1967, my favorite public event has always been the 4thof July celebration. 

I’ve always loved that national holiday—to me it’s the epitome of national pride—demonstrated in a myriad of ways throughout the length and breadth of the land—in small villages and communities and towns alike.

Living in Waterford in the early ’70s, I enthusiastically looked forward to the annual event. As a transplanted Brit, I’d never known such an event in Britain—we didn’t have “parades,” certainly not one for the 4thof July. But I fell in love with this annual event and enthusiastically corralled the entire family in our participation.

Back then, the parade was the opening event of the village’s celebration, followed by a speech or two, games at the Old School and an evening community pot-luck supper.

The parade participants included individuals, families, dogs, horses, even donkeys. That motley crew included my family.

I remember my first parade as if it were yesterday. My husband, decked out as a triumphant colonial rebel, drove the riding mower (in the first of many such outings) to which was hitched the lawn clippings wagon, containing his family.

I, seated on the “wool sac,” with my wrists bound, was defeated Britannia, while our children represented the subject territories of Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I remember we got a first prize—a giant watermelon, for our efforts.

In a subsequent parade, I was decked out in a flowered sheet, entwined with honeysuckle. Our theme was “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

I was “Life,” and a visiting friend was “Liberty.” My husband was the “Pursuer of Happiness”—chasing the children with a butterfly net on a long stick.

Unfortunately, two horses right behind me were very interested in munching on the honeysuckle that enshrouded me, leading one local wag to say, “If that’s Life, give me Happiness.”

What we put that riding mower through over the years! Our crowning glory was our swan song. We had chosen the French Revolution as our theme.

Again, my husband drove the faithful riding mower, this time as a red-capped revolutionary leader, representing a “sans culotte,” those fearful members of the French Revolution. (The term means “without breeches,” in reference to the garb of the lower classes).

Our teenaged daughter and a friend represented beautiful young aristocrats, dressed in pure white nightdresses (courtesy of their mothers). Hands bound, with long dark hair falling down their backs, they were seated in our version of the tumbril (the faithful lawn clippings cart), headed for the guillotine.

This time I was no defeated Britannia. In a reversal of my debut, I now was the conqueror of “les aristos.”

I gloried in replicating a “tricoteuse,” those dreadful females, if one could so dignify them, who, reportedly, sat knitting under the guillotine, sometimes spattered with the blood of a victim.

It was a great role. I found a rather ugly crocheted brown shawl that I had made in a misguided fit of industry, and wore a bright red cap on my head, from under which my hair hung down in lank strands.

It had rained the night before and there were muddy puddles in the street. So, in the spirit of “in for a penny, in for a pound” to be faithful to my frightful character, I scooped up some mud from a puddle and smeared it over my teeth. Large wooden knitting needles on which I knitted endlessly, completed my outfit.

That year, I think we did fairly earn our prize.

Now living in Leesburg, the magic of the 4th of July lives on. This week, early firecrackers be could heard going off and we look forward to the return of fireworks at Ida Lee Park shooting up above the trees from our back porch next year. The magic lives on.