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Monday, December 29, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 10/27/2001

Patriotic thoughts now part of a morning routine

On this rainy Sunday morning, Digby has gone back to bed. He shows no signs of following his usual routine, which is to stay outdoors until dark.

Since the Fourth of July fireworks he has taken to sleeping at the foot of my bed; not on it, but very close, on a foam bed on the floor. When darkness falls he scoots into the house and up the stairs, and he doesn't move a muscle until about 5:30 a.m., when we all get up; “we” being Sullivan, too. It's a daily parade down the stairs, with Digby preferring to go out one door and Sullivan insisting on another exit.

It is then that I can let Geranium indoors for a hug and her breakfast. Sullivan has not and apparently never will accept another cat in his territory, especially another black one that is female. So Geranium has become the garage cat, which is better than roaming the fields and being hit by a car. My grandmother always had barn cats.

When I made a quick dash to the garbage cans in the rain just now, a squirrel was running faster, with a walnut in its mouth. Each spring when the gardens are cleaned, there are many black walnut shells that were hidden by the squirrels for the long winter.

And what will this winter bring, we wonder, as snow falls on the flag that waves in the breeze.

Little do my sweet animals or the furry friends that run wild realize the anguish in my heart as news of the fighting in Afghanistan unfolds daily. Each day, rain or shine, it is important to climb on a stepstool to straighten the large flag that often blows up into the eaves troughs, and to check out two other flags. I hope none has been stolen during the night - my neighbor's was, along with the pole, the week of the attacks on New York and Washington. In tears, she explained she would have gladly given the culprit the flag. The people who steal flags are probably the same ones who take flowers from cemeteries.

I wonder if three flags are enough to express the patriotism that grips deep in my heart, and in most American hearts. Now I am ashamed that heretofore I only brought out the flag for the Fourth of July and Memorial Day and Labor Day observances; it should have been a focus of the yard. A young family man said that he and his wife regret that they had to buy a flag the day after Sept. 11. He lamented, “We should have always had a flag for our children to put up and see.” Indeed, many Americans have taken for granted the freedom that within a few short weeks has become our most valuable possession.

My heart skips a beat when I see a pickup truck with a flag flying from the back, or a small flag on bicycle handlebars, or a proud semi driver who has attached a flag to the front grill. Such expressions not only spread the word of pride for our country, but somehow give us unity.

Gladys, my aging car, now with 191,000 miles, was one of the first vehicles in Michigan to wear the new patriotic license plate that boldly states “Proud to be American.” Michigan divides the $35 fee equally between the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Gladys became gravely ill on Sept. 11, which was minor in the big picture of that horrendous day, but it is worth reporting because it relates to terror attacks.

I arrived that morning on a flight from Los Angeles minutes before Detroit Metro was closed for security reasons. I went directly to baggage claim where I was to be met by a friend who had volunteered to deliver Gladys.

Despite his good intentions, on the way to the airport the friend drove over an object big enough to jar Gladys' transmission. By the time he stopped at Northwest Airlines' baggage claim, transmission fluid was all over the road and Gladys could not move an inch.

The police, who were on the lookout for vehicles that might be bomb threats, were yelling at me to move the car, and with no tow-truck help available from AAA I broke down in tears, screaming, “I can't move the car. She's broken.” Finally, one of the several tow-truck drivers who had been marshaled for the emergency took pity on me and hauled us to a shop where Gladys spent the night and received a new transmission which gives her a new lease on life.

Until then, I had been new-car shopping. Honest.

Mary Alice Powell is a former Blade food editor. E-mail her at mpowell@theblade.com.



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