It’s July 4 as I write this, early afternoon. Earlier today I was picking wild blackberries. Mosquitoes swarmed exposed skin and sometimes bit through my clothing, even though I’d slicked myself down with lemongrass oil and a wonderful chigger repellant concocted by a friend of mine. Bees buzzed around doing what they do best and I wondered, as I stood in a tangle of briars, if the lemongrass might distract them from the flowers. It didn’t seem to. And so I picked and allowed my mind to slip into a reflective state, away from the swarms and thorns.
Independence Day. What does that mean? Fireworks. Loud ones to remind me of firearms exploding. Beautiful awe-inspiring sparks I would crane my neck to see later in the evening. Watermelon chilling in the fridge. Freedom from England. Lost freedom for Native Americans. Forefathers…What about foremothers?
What was George’s wife, Martha, doing on that first Independence Day while George was off signing the Declaration of Independence? Was she out picking berries? Was it hot where she was that day? Thankfully, I had a mild summer morning this year for my berry picking. But she would have had on all those layers of clothes that “respectable” women wore back then! I wore long sleeves, jeans, tube socks, boots. And how did she repel the bugs? Did they bite her face as they did mine? I suppose they did.
“You’re starting a war,” she might have said to George as he left. And what would have been his reply to that? “As bullheaded as King George is, you’re probably right.” “Is it worth your life?” she might have asked then, as she pondered if it were worth the lives of all those young men who would fight and die. All those young, hopeful men whose lives had just begun. They were just boys really, and they would follow her husband to the bleakest, darkest places of the imagination.
“I’ll be back,” he would have said.
As she watched him ride away on his horse, did she ask herself, Why do I always see his back? And then turn back to her own private battle, the combat with thorny stems full of ripe, sweet berries?
Surely, she left some for the turtles, deer, the turkey, and her neighbors. Did she consider the delicious things she would sweat over in the kitchen to welcome George home? Did she say out loud, “Someday, he’ll go to war and never come back,” or did she always know in her heart that he would come back? Did she believe in his dream of a free nation, too?
I have to think she must have. I like to think that after picking berries, she stopped by the river and, seeing the reflection of the trees and the sky on the water, she saw a wider picture. She knew George would come home, as surely as she knew he was starting a war. She knew things could only get better for the little colonies. Things wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be a “more perfect union” than colonists had before. One step closer to the peace she yearned for in her heart.
Before leaving the river, maybe she watched a caterpillar as it formed its chrysalis, then bade farewell to the honeybees, and finally went home to wash her berries.
Thank you, Foremothers, for your patience, support and courage as this country was born!by