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4th of July Memories and Reminders

Freedom

I came awake this morning to thoughts of my Grandma Holland, one of the loveliest ladies I have ever had the honor to know. We lost her just over two years ago, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of her.

But on this 4th of July morning, as I was lying in bed in that state somewhere between dreaming and consciousness, I thought about the way she got up to an alarm clock at four-thirty every day of the working week.  There were times when my sister and I would spend the night at her house, and I would hear her alarm go off at that painful hour, wait to hear the pad of her feet across the wood floor. The alarm would go silent, but the sounds of her day would follow. The whoosh of water in the bathroom sink, the percolator preparing her coffee, WNLB on the kitchen counter’s transistor radio. All of this in preparation for her job at a local manufacturing factory.

Grandma didn’t drive, so she rode to work with another lady who worked at the factory. She would hurry about, so that she was always ready on time, never wanting to hold up the friend generous enough to give her a ride.

I don’t think I ever realized as a girl just how difficult it was for my Grandma to earn her weekly paychecks. She never complained about any of it. Instead, her attitude was always one of gratitude for the job she had, the ability to earn an income. She was out the door by six so that they would be sure to arrive well before the seven o’clock whistle. She was usually home by five o’clock, depending on whether they worked overtime.

And even then, her day wasn’t over. There was supper to be fixed. Clothes to be washed. A house to keep clean.

On this morning, this fourth of July, I am thankful that I awoke to thoughts of her. I am thankful for the example she set for me, for the awareness I have of how she took nothing in her life for granted. She saw the opportunities she had as a blessing, remembered the days of the Great Depression when food was hard to come by. When she and her nine siblings were left without a mother when she was just thirteen.

She was part of “the greatest generation who ever lived” as Tom Brokaw called those who grew up in the Great Depression. Those experiences shaped her, made her grow up to become a woman who understood what it was to have the freedom to work and earn an income. To eat each day without worrying about where the next meal would come from. She lived her life with that awareness, that appreciation, that gratitude defining who she was.

My life is a cakewalk compared to hers. I have not had to live through the Great Depression, get up at four-thirty each day to earn a living. I know she would be happy about that, grateful for it, in fact.

But doesn’t that make my responsibility for gratitude for the freedoms I have in this life, an even greater one? I think so. And I thank you, dearest, sweetest, Grandma Holland, for reminding me of that on this 4th of July morning.

Books by Inglath Cooper