July 4 is freedom. From the famed red, white and blue parade of our small town to crackling fireworks that burst across these vast Oklahoma night skies; memorable war movies like Bridge Over the River Kwai and Tora! Tora! Tora! to stars like James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy and Robert Preston in The Music Man; smoke bombs and blackcat firecrackers; watermelon, junebugs, American flags, and homemade butterfinger ice cream. These are just a few of the ingredients that have thoroughly mixed themselves into my memory after just a little more than four decades of celebrating this holiday, from childhood to manhood.
My college bound 18 year-old and I recently spent a week in Washington, D.C., our first in the nation’s capital, and marveled at a night tour of that city’s extensive and awe-inspiring landmarks like the Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Wall, and the Marine Corps Memorial. Freedom was everywhere and we could feel its power and its heartbeat throughout the city.
I write all of that to remind myself and my daughters, and maybe a reader or two as well, of why I have created this website and blog on the eve of this freedom-infused holiday. It is no accident that this blog debuts on the eve of America’s rowdy July 4th celebrations. I believe that books are an ingredient for freedom. They bring life and adventure, instruction and hope, pride, envy, sadness, pain, grief, joy, and peace. They are words let loose onto a page or a screen, in a title or across a dustjacket, embedded in the hardback cover and across the rigid spine, written, typed, spoken, translated. Words can bring freedom to one or millions, while age and time cannot bind them.
When our first daughter was nearing the end of Kindergarten, she was desperate to read the words in her favorite books all to herself. She would sit on our big couch just a few feet from where I am writing this nearly fifteen years later and stare into the pages of books piled up around her and covering her tiny legs, trying with all her might to sound out the words and make sense of it, without our help. It was right then, at that very moment, that I sensed the gravity with which learning to read holds every human being captive. It was not an easy thing to learn to read and tears would eventually come as she so often sat there on that couch so motivated to read and so unwilling to let us help her. It was as though reading a book consumed her, taxed her, worried her, needed her – it was amazing for me, her father, to behold. For something inside her must have already known that freedom lingered there among those words, even within the pages of her childhood books…especially within the pages of her childhood books.
So here’s to freedom…and to books…and to the children and their dads who have learned the power of both.
Row, Row, Row the Boats by Michael Dahl – See the “Book Cook” tab on our Home page for a special recipe to accompany one of our favorite 4th of July books.