LET FREEDOM RING!

LET FREEDOM RING!  July 4th, not the day independence was declared, but the day the Declaration of Independence was signed.  A day of trepidation for our forefathers who didn’t know if they would really see a free nation or would end up being hung for treason.  A day for celebration for us – freedom, a day off from work, fireworks, John Sousa marches being played by local bands, barbecue and barbecues, politicians making campaign appearances, and family get-togethers.  While I will enjoy and participate in all of the above before I go to sleep tonight, for a few early morning hours, July 4th is my quiet time of independence.

I don’t turn on the television or music, but instead take a moment to reflect in solitude staring out my back window.  My husband is out walking with a friend before the heat of the day becomes oppressive, but I am vegging.  It already is too hot for me to want to leave my air-conditioned room, but I am observing the stillness in my yard.  The grass is a little long, but neither it nor the trees are swaying in the absence of any wind.  It is a far cry from a few weeks ago when tornadoes devastated homes just a few blocks from our house while our trees bent from the force of the wind, before bouncing back upright.

The quiet makes me think of a cherished memory from my childhood.  It is the memory of the first time I ever realized the power that comes from solitude.  My family had just moved to Michigan; but dad was away on a business trip.  Mother had spent the night shortening curtains by hand so our apartment would seem more finished.  As she worked and listened to the radio, she observed snow falling and began to hear school closings, but none mentioned the Jackson schools where she had just enrolled us so I was sent off to the junior high school, a few blocks away.

Snow was falling lightly, but sticking with drifts that made me step carefully as I crossed the road in front of the apartment complex and took the shortcut to school.  The shortcut was a paved sidewalk between houses that had been built on multiple lots.  It enabled children living in our fairly populated area to independently walk to the elementary and junior high schools without having to cross two busy roads that bordered these houses.  I searched for the shortcut path, but no footsteps had marked it for me to distinguish from random sandlike dunes.  Everything was silent and white.  I had my bearings, but I stopped to look around for a bird, a squirrel, or another child.  There were none.  I was about to start walking again when I saw a single bird perched on the branch of an evergreen tree.  It seemed to notice me at the same time.  We stared at each other and then the bird shook itself and flew away.  Finally, I forced myself to continue to my closed school.  I got home in time to keep my mother from taking my sister to school.

The memory of being cold faded, but the silent beauty of solitude I felt stayed with me.  So, on the 4th of July, I am glad to celebrate our country’s independence and to take a few minutes to enjoy my own independence.

Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Maze in Blue, a murder mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s.  www.DebraHGoldstein.com

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  1. Anonymous
    November 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Mary Beth:
    My husband would have been at the University of Alabama when your apartment mate’s boyfriend probably was there, too. As for Collegiate Sorosis, it is delightful to meet another former member. I think you will find some of the descriptions in the book truer to the Collegiate Sorosis of the 1970’s, after the requirements for females to stay in a dormitory or sorority had been rescinded so CS was forced to take in borders. Hopefully, when you read the book, you will enjoy some of the memories it evokes before the different parts of the campus were changed — as you know today, the roads have been rerouted because of the addition of the business school, the Law Quad has been extended by a connected building built in the same style, and the Frieze building has been redone as a dormitory. Jacobson’s was replaced by Borders and now is an empty shell for rent. The Diag and some of the buildings remain intact, but it is nice to go down memory lane. Finally, I can tell that you more than understand my love for independent bookstores – those stores can be headaches to their owners, but I don’t think many would give up on them willingly. Thank you again for responding to my blog. Hope to hear more from you. Debra

  2. Mary Beth Goelzer
    October 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I look forward to reading your book. I graduated from Michiigan in 1963 and was a member of the Collegiate Sorosis sorority. My husband graduated from the Law School in 1965. Do any of your characters resemble anyone form the sorority?

    I also managed an independent bookstore in a Milwaukee suburb. for 7 years. We were the first bookstore to put in a coffe shop. The store became a community meeting place for all sorts of people. what an experience and education!

    Go Blue! Actually, my apartment mate was dating a law student who had graduated from the U of Alabama and they fixed me up with Dave as a blind date on my birthday!
    Mary Beth

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