I just love Flag Day, but I always get so bummed out that it’s not a bigger holiday. I mean, I’ve already said, “Happy Flag Day!” to at least half a dozen random people, and nobody really gets it, most people just kind of look at me like I’m nuts, maybe if I’m lucky I’ll get an awkward smile in return. Nobody’s ever like, “Happy Flag Day to you too!” Which sucks, because Flag Day’s a real day, and it’s awesome.
My family was big into Flag Day when I was a kid. My mom would wake us up really early and she’d make a special Flag Day pancake breakfast. I don’t know how she did it, but each pancake came out exactly like the American flag. And I’m not talking just a plain rectangle, no, they were the shape of a proud flag that’s bravely blowing in the wind. Then she’d put out blueberry and strawberry jellies, so we could decorate the stars and stripes ourselves. It was awesome.
I went to the diner this morning, and, whatever, I always get a little sad on festive holidays as an adult, for whatever reason, I can never seem to recapture that Flag Day magic of my youth. I asked the waiter if he could somehow get the chef to at least try to make my Flag Day pancakes. He kept saying, “What?” every time I explained to him what I was looking for. “Pancakes shaped like an American flag blowing in the wind with a side of blueberry and strawberry jam,” and each time, “What?” Finally he just said, “OK boss, you got it,” and he came back ten minutes later with the most regular looking regular pancakes I’ve ever seen in my life.
That’s OK I guess, that’s not an official Flag Day tradition, it was just something my family always did to really amp up the spirit of the grand old flag. Kind of like our annual flag hunt. After breakfast, my dad would lead us outside, where he’d spent all night painstakingly hiding little American flags all over the backyard. “First one to fifty flags in the winner!” he’d shout out as he pulled the trigger on his Flag Day starter pistol. It was cool because when he fired, a little flag popped out and unrolled itself, just like you’d see on a cartoon.
We all had American flag t-shirts and shorts, we’d play outside on the Slip-N-Slide and dry off with these American flag towels that we only used on Flag Day. My parents got really into it. I remember one year my mom bought this America Flag doormat, and we all thought it was a really cool addition to all of the Flag Day paraphernalia. But later in the day my grandfather came over. He was a World War II vet, and he got really upset about the idea of someone stepping on the flag.
And yeah, everybody got really quiet after that, the realization that we’d all been stepping on the flag, all day, on Flag Day. My little brother was only like four or five years old, and he started crying, wailing. He was totally inconsolable. My mom tried to reassure him, “It’s OK, it wasn’t on purpose, look, I took it off the floor and I’ll clean it off, it’s going to be fine.” But my grandfather was getting even angrier, “No!” he shouted, “Let the boy cry! You should all be crying!”
After like fifteen minutes or so, the scene was only escalating, and my father, who had so far been reluctant to oppose my veteran grandfather, finally made a move to try to diffuse the situation. Unfortunately, it was at that moment that the sprinkler system went off. My dad had rigged the whole setup so that miniature American flags popped up from underground.
“What is this? You think the flag is some sort of a joke?” That was my grandfather again. His face was beet red at this point. And he was wearing a blue and white shirt, so it was actually kind of funny, I think we all thought it, how he sort of resembled a really angry American flag. But nobody dared say anything. We all just stood there and tried to act contrite until my grandfather left in a huff, screaming stuff about, “double-ya double-ya two,” as he backed his truck out of our driveway.
Flag Day was never the same after that, the next year’s celebration was markedly subdued in comparison. And like I’ve said, Flag Day today is nothing like the Flag Days of my youth. Still, my iPhone’s calendar app had Flag Day preinstalled as an event on today’s date. So that was cool. And I found a deck of American flag playing cards at a store a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been saving them for today, so hopefully my wife agrees to play a few hands of spit or gin rummy. We’ll see. We actually don’t play cards that much. Because yeah, it’s kind of boring, and there are so many more interesting things to do.
Happy Flag Day everybody.