The long box arrived via overnight Fed-Ex on Friday. Twenty-foot aluminum flagpole. I knew a flag was arriving for my husband’s birthday gift from Texas Dad, but I pictured a regular one angled off our house, not a -worthy ship mast.
Jeff arrived home and read the writing on the shock-box. His dad had mentioned to me he paid a pretty penny to get the gift here on time for 9/11 so we imagined it would take a good portion of our Saturday to dig down four feet and secure it in cement and rebar, when really we had been looking forward to the and .
We live in a tiny house on a postage-size plot with a mini-skirt of a front yard full of plants it took me years to establish, a new wrought iron fence, riverstone posts. A pole that size would ruin the garden and dwarf our house. Would Dad be offended if we flew our flag privately, in the backyard?
Not only did we spend much of the evening fretting over the logistics of actually erecting the flag, but we wondered more if we were up to its symbolism.
Not yet out of the box, the flag was already a conversation-starter and sleep-ender. We debated the pros and cons of flag-flying. Certainly we want our kids to feel pride in their country. We, their parents, love our country too, of course, but unlike the blind-pride way some demand or else, we love our country in a way that includes a huge dose of humility, sometimes even shame. We love our country in a way that wishes our country could do better. We love our country like a spouse whom we aren’t afraid to question and challenge.
So here we are picturing ourselves with this blatant ship mast. Do we lower the flag on days when we don’t like the stubborn stalemate going on in Washington – at the risk of making it look like someone died? Then raise it again when the last Shuttle flight lands; lower it when an Abu Ghraib happens; and so on?
We asked our 94-year-old neighbor Helen, pious, diligent weeder, font of all the wisdom that comes with simply living a life for so long. She said, in no uncertain terms, you’ve got no choice: put in the backyard.
Our three-year-old threw in her assessment: Daddy, it’s your birthday, you have to have a flagpole.
Okay then, here we go. Backyard flagpole.
Show time. We opened the – strangely light – box. What to our wondering eyes should emerge but a beautiful, hand-embroidered flag on a thin five-foot pole that requires nothing more than four screws. We were giddy with relief.
Yes, we can be flag people. We can mount this on our house for this important tenth anniversary, Flag Days, Fourth of Julys, whenever we like. Like right now.
We put it up in seconds and were free to go see the intrepid mud wrestlers, I mean swimmers, push through the brown water full of debris for the sake of their good cause. We signed the petition for saving the SH Post Office, bought our rack of Fire Department ribs, and let our daughter loose in the bouncy castle – eager to return home from the street fair to see what our flag looked like from a distance.
Had we just opened that box earlier, perhaps we might not have loved it this much.