I find as we are growing older together, you and I, that often I want us talk about things after they happen rather than before. More of the how did they turn out, what was it like, how did it touch our hearts and sometimes hurt our hearts. As I looked up the definition of legacy, I realized that’s what it is. What we leave behind after an event — a day, a moment or a lifetime.
I was thinking about this because of our new normal. This year the Fourth of July in our neighborhood was a much smaller event. Twenty years ago, John would stand on our front porch with all the neighborhood children around as we played patriotic music. He would remind us about the meaning of Independence Day — what great men and woman of all backgrounds sacrificed, left behind, so that we could be free as a people and country.
Big and small changes do not happen without good, devoted people — usually behind the scenes — moving mountains, for us and our future.
All of us did our best to find something red, white and blue to wear, and the music of our country played throughout the day and night. After the Pledge of Allegiance, John would announce the start of the bike parade around the cul-de-sac, the sack races, egg on the spoon, water in the bucket on your head fun run, and it ended with the best water balloon “fight.” (I hesitate to write that word now, but it was a fun fight.)
Everyone was happy and together as one. Everyone was invited to join in. Friends brought friends. I guess that will be part of our neighborhood family legacy someday.
This year was different — so much smaller — but we remembered shared stories and played our country’s music to remember.
Even though we couldn’t have the big gathering, new memories were still made. Someone to watch for in the future is 9-year-old Daphne Awad of Londonderry. Daphne has the voice of an angel and the last two years she has used our 15-year-old karaoke machine and microphone to kick off the evening off with "God Bless America."
This year the beautiful loud blasts of fireworks throughout Londonderry made it hard to hear her song. Still, she sang for America and our forefathers with a sense of pride and respect that we should all have. My prediction, and you read it here first: "American Idol" here she comes! She also has an amazing, humble, big sister Aliviyah, who is always by her side. What a gift.
You might wonder why I said beautiful loud fireworks, but fireworks remind me of our history, the legacy of our great country and that we will overcome all these obstacles we are faced with together not alone. They are a reminder of the great energy, perseverance, yes fight, and great successes of our past and the ones to come for future generations after we are all long gone.
We started off our Fourth of July weekend watching "Hamilton." Given the prices of the tickets on Broadway, we knew it would not be something we could pay to see in person. It's a historical musical with a modern-day twist. It features great rap music, which normally I’m not a fan off. (My dad George would even say of Neil Diamond in the day, “He’s not really singing.” Dad felt Neil was talking in his songs.) It also has unexpected humor that relates to where we are today.
I realized quickly I knew so little about this time in our history. What "Hamilton" showed me was the beginning of our great country. The sacrifices of many, so that we can live the way we do today. Our history is our legacy and we must learn from it and be open to it. Our history is like my New Hampshire puzzle, perfectly imperfect. How can it be anything else? All of these great characters in "Hamilton" — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Hamilton — who established the first orphanage in our country — and so many others were often judged harshly, but they were simply human, not superhuman. They made mistakes, as we all do, but more importantly they set the foundation for our lives and our freedom. I wish I could thank them.
Before I go, a little shout out to our Art Rugg, who wrote last week to tell me about his family's unexpected drives to nowhere that always ended up leading them somewhere that they could learn a few new things.
Art shared with me that right in Whitefield, where we were staying, there is a historic ball signal that people come from all over the world to take pictures of. Art wrote that “Whitefield is noted as having a restored ball signal at the crossing of the old B + M and Maine Central Railroads in downtown Whitefield. You will see railroad fanatics there taking pictures.” He sent me a picture too! Art went on to say that “once the train has cleared the crossing, the conductor raises the ball to indicate the tract is clear – hence to “high ball” it.”
And on a sad note, this week we lost a great man: Thomas J. Freda, our moderator in Londonderry. Tom also served on our Town Council and other committees where there was a need throughout the years. I hope Tom knows the great legacy that he left with us. Cindi Rice Conley and I had the privilege to work by his side at each election. The three of us would start at 5 a.m. and feel lucky if we were able to leave by midnight or early the next morning. Tom never complained, even though he had been terribly ill the last year. He gave 120% to everything he did for our town and state. Most importantly he left a legacy of love and devotion to his wife Rita and their three sons.
Tom can never be replaced. Like during the time of "Hamilton," the greatest men and woman often are the humble heroes behind the scenes. They are the ones we can depend on, even when their bodies are failing them. Tthey are the ones who do their best to treat everyone fairly and do what is right. It was an honor to serve by Tom’s side. Our election process — not only in our town but in our state — is better because of him. We could never thank Tom enough or his family, whom he loved more than life itself, for sharing him with us.