What to do? We grew weary of listening to Isaac yell “pool!” 134 times in two hours, even though he couldn’t move his neck. He wanted to go swimming, but that couldn’t happen in his condition. While nearly everything in town was closed for the holiday, the pool remained open. All day long. We needed to leave town before one or more of us lost our minds.
We wrestled with the idea for a while . . . go to the Mississippi River Museum, even though we’d already been there? Hike somewhere? No, that didn’t seem like a good idea for a kid with a bum knee and an open wound on his neck. Does antibiotic ointment attract bugs? We didn’t really want to know.
I could hear my late grandma’s voice urging me. “It’s your civic duty to visit. Your kids need to know about Iowa’s only Republican President!” Noah was excited. Henry rolled his eyes. Isaac was just happy to be going somewhere in the van.
Independence Day morning we baked our annual flag cake. Noah and Henry cracked the eggs and later decorated the blueberry-strawberry spangled banner. We put it in the fridge and loaded the van.
Before we entered the museum, I asked the kids to gather for a family selfie. Noah walked away and said, “No thanks, I’ve never been into trends.”
The admission for the five of us was $12. (Kids were free.) The young man who took our money was wearing an American flag tie. Does it get more patriotic than this?
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I turned the corner and discovered the First Lady Dress exhibit. It was a traveling exhibit that happened to be there on Independence Day. I've never been a fashionista or a trend setter (Noah and I share some genes, after all), but I was in awe of the gowns on display.
“Look boys, this is Martha Washington’s dress. She was married to George Washington! Can you believe this? And Mary Todd Lincoln’s dress right here!” They weren’t as impressed. We walked through rather quickly but still managed to see dresses worn by every First Lady, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, Mamie Eisenhower, and Michelle Obama. I marveled at how tiny these dresses were – could they have shrunk in the rinse cycle? I couldn't have fit one of my legs inside some of those tiny waistbands. Even so, I had stars in my eyes, just like the American flag.
We visited the gift shop and walked out empty handed. Henry decided not to buy the Herbert Hoover bobble head for $20.
Isaac was anxious to get outside. We toured Hoover’s birthplace and talked to an employee about the time-period homes on the grounds. Isaac decided he didn’t want to go into the blacksmith shop or the school, but we went anyway. He walked ahead of us for a while, as we meandered the grounds. There were acres of open spaces and prairie grasses. It was a gorgeous day to admire our sweet land of liberty.
He grabbed me and said, “I’ve always wanted to kiss you at a national historic site.” I began to laugh. It was obvious we had been there too long.
We paid our respects to the 31st President of the United States and took in the breathtaking view from the hilltop. I felt proud to be an American. The kids raced down the hill towards the van. As usual, Isaac climbed into the front seat, so I had to crawl into the back.
“We’re thinking about pizza,” I said.
“Pizza? That’s an Italian food. We can’t eat pizza on the 4th of July!” Noah exclaimed. “That’s un-American!”
“Well, fast food is as American as you can get,” Chris explained, “and we’re not doing that.”
We left the Presidential Library and Museum. The kids said they were thirsty. Most of the band had packed up. There were only a few cars in the parking lot.
“I hope people don’t confuse Herbert Hoover with J. Edgar Hoover,” Noah said thoughtfully. “You know, J. Edgar Hoover was the first director of the FBI. He was a shorter guy, about 5’6” tall. He stood on a footstool at times to intimidate people.”
I’m sure he did more than that to intimidate people, I thought.
A few hours later the five of us sat around a small table at locally-owned Tomaso’s Pizza, where we ate two pizza pies on paper plates. One had a Detroit crust (a “must try” someone told us), and the other was a thin crust, New York style. The pizza might have been Italian, but the names of the crusts certainly were not. A baseball game was broadcast in the background. It seemed All-American to me.
When we got home, I cut the flag cake into several pieces and set our blue and white plates on the kitchen counter. Everyone rushed to grab a piece with strawberries on top. Noah took a big bite and said the cake tasted like heaven. In fact, he said it was the best red-white-and-blue cake he had ever eaten.
He was right. It was the perfect end to a patriotic day.
God bless America, my home sweet home.