No celebration of America’s birthday goes by without me thinking of my brother, who came into this world July 4. En route to the hospital that day, my dad ran out of gas and had to knock on someone’s door to borrow their car. In those days, gas stations were closed on Independence Day, as was almost everything else. The significance of the holiday has declined in recent times.
My sister and I are 15 months older than Richard. Therefore, we were similar in size. Dad fixed the twin stroller to accommodate all three of us. Mother said everyone would comment about her having triplets.
The advantage to Richard was he learned things a little earlier because he was always paired with Jean and me. We each had a “vehicle” to pedal around the long, sloped driveway. Richard’s was a fire engine and voila, he became a fireman. I think our destiny often is set when we are children.
One of the funniest memories I have of the adventures of Richard and me is when we decided at ages 4 and 5 to run away from home. We told our parents we were leaving and spent at least an hour packing a wagon with things we thought we might need. We took our favorite toys. We had no idea and no discussion about where we were going, just away from home. Mom and Dad told us to have fun and be careful.
We left our driveway, something unusual because we had no reason most of the time to venture outside of the yard. I think we were both scared, but neither of us wanted to admit it. We walked all the way down Garfield Boulevard, about a mile, looking at all the houses and trees. The few people we encountered would ask where we were going. We would reply, “We have just run away from home.”
At the end of Garfield Boulevard was a road consisting of a long hill with no sidewalks and many trucks. We finally had a discussion about this caper. We realized if we made it down this long road, we would have to walk up the hill with our wagon. Richard and I decided to return home.
As we grew, Richard and I became risk-takers who competed in learning skills such as diving, swimming and water-skiing. I will never forget how furious he was when I got up on the skis before he did. We also are the only two of the five of us who went out to see the world. When we were 11 and 12, someone put bathing caps on us and took a picture of just our faces. We looked identical, yet we were two individuals. At Halloween in the same year the three of us were dressed as “The Spirit of ’76” and won the prize for the best costume. Richard carried our flag.
Parents have to recognize their children’s interests. We are all products of our experiences, which make us unique in our own families. As a parent, my advice: “Embrace it.”
Richard remains an outdoorsman. He loves our country and his birthday.
It’s sad that we are so advanced today that we do not hear the laughs, cries or joys of being Americans. I hope the fireworks you saw ignite a passion for protecting our freedoms in your hearts.
Ann Bednarski is a retired educator and journalist.