It was a day to celebrate America. Flags fluttered in the breeze. Families gathered around the picnic table. Fireworks would soon light the night sky.
This was a slice of Americana on the Fourth of July; a picture that could have been one of Norman Rockwell's nostalgic scenes. A summer day I vividly remember, captured forever in my heart.
Little girls in patriotic summer sundresses skipped barefoot through the grass, a playful puppy at their heels. A tiny baby dozed on a soft blanket while longtime friends chatted in the shade of a huge old tree.
One neighbor remembered how her little ones had once climbed that mulberry tree — smaller back then — and now, another young boy found adventure in its limbs. As we watched him climb, I reminisced about one very cold Fourth of July while another friend added how we had tried to picnic in the rain, our kids begging for hot chocolate.
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Memories mingled with laughter.
While the hamburgers seared on the barbecue and potato salad made its way to the gaily decorated red, white and blue table, the host approached me, his grandson clinging to his side.
"Lucy, before we eat, would you please lead the prayer?" he said, the child peeking from behind denim jeans.
I could feel my heart skip.
Praying aloud is something that makes me feel a bit self-conscious. And because we were outside, I knew I would have to shout to make myself heard, the breeze whispering in the leaves overhead.
"Well, how about if we all join hands," I said tentatively, knowing I would feel encouragement in the bond that had spanned the years.
Within minutes, grandparents, young moms, dads and children linked fingers as heads bowed. Our hearts joining in unison as we thought beyond our anticipated meal to that historic time, and all it stood for in America.
While the sunlight warmed us, my voice rose as we thanked God for friends, family, and most importantly, our freedom. I prayed that we not take it for granted, that we would cherish and protect it always.
“And please continue to bless this great country in the years ahead,” I said, my voice tight with emotion.
An “amen” from the group lifted skyward, and then came a dash for the food-laden table, the fragrance of warm cherry pies beckoning.
Yet in the rush, one young mom lingered behind to tell me how much the prayer had touched her, how it had been a gentle reminder that freedom is a God-given gift.
At that moment, I felt a spirit of hope.
This same Americana scene would surely be repeated again and again by generations to come.
A distant time and place when hands and hearts are joined in thankfulness, remembering – and never forgetting – how blessed is this nation under God.