Saturday, July 04, 2009

Saturday Soliloquy-- My Best Fourth of July

This Saturday Soliloquy post has nothing to do with books and everything to do with the Fourth of July. I thought I'd share some teenage memories of my best ever Fourth of July.

I wasn't in the popular crowd in high school. I looked too serious, I was too shy, I got along too well with the teachers, and my grades were too good. About the only adventurous thing I did when it came to extracurricular activities was being one of the banner carriers in the marching band. (Me? Show my legs?) There was no way on God's green earth that I'd ever be anything remotely like Homecoming Queen!

Anyone who subscribed to the weekly Moweaqua News had to be thoroughly sick of the sight of me in the last two months of my senior year because I'd earned quite a few awards, one of which was Valedictorian. (That's not saying much. There were 39 kids in my graduating class.) The village had started throwing a huge Fourth of July celebration which drew quite a large crowd from the surrounding area. It would be my last one before moving to Utah to go to college.

The afternoon that I was mowing around the cherry tree in the backyard will forever remain etched in my memory. I had my usual lawn mowing apparel on--disreputable cut-off jeans, tennis shoes that were more hole than shoe, an ancient sweatshirt that was no longer red, had the arms cut out and advertised Southern Illinois University, and a bandanna tied around my head to sop up the sweat. It was a typical hot, muggy summer day in small town central Illinois.

The roar of the lawn mower effectively prevented me from hearing anything, so when someone tapped me on the shoulder, I almost jumped into the branches of the tree. When I turned around, I saw a little old lady standing there smiling at me. I turned off the mower and smiled back. What happened next almost made me fall over backwards from shock. She was a member of the local Senior Citizens group and wanted me to be their Queen candidate for the Fourth of July celebration. I wasn't thinking clearly, or I would never have accepted.

Come to find out, several organizations wanted me to be their candidate, including the American Legion to which my grandfather belonged. Leave it to those cunning old folks to sneak in ahead of everyone else! The vote for Queen was done with money--a penny a vote, and big glass jars with each candidate's name were by the registers of all the businesses in town. (The money collected went toward the bills for all the celebrating.) After the momentary shock and thrill, I was convinced that the former Homecoming Queens who were also candidates had a much better shot at victory than I.

The morning of the Fourth dawned overcast, extremely humid and HOT. I donned my homemade prom dress and showed up at the beginning of the parade route. One impossible dream was about to become true: I was going to be sitting in a convertible waving to the crowd. I remembered reading about "the royal wave" and told myself to use it so my arm wouldn't fall off by parade's end.

Whenever I'm the object of many eyes, my posture becomes ramrod straight, which you can see in the photo, unless you're looking at that cool baby blue convertible! I think this was my favorite part of the entire day.

After the parade, the Senior Citizens gathered round me and had me stand still for a photo that shows their banner across my chest. They were all ticked pink, complimenting me on the dress that my grandmother had made, telling me I had beautiful posture, clucking at the other girl riding with me because she slouched, and promising over and over again that they'd done so much campaigning that I was a Sure Thing. Yeah. Right. Since I was wearing a prom dress and a sash, to me this was a beauty contest, and I had absolutely no chance of winning. Who'd want to vote for this Old Folks' Candidate, no matter how much campaigning they'd done?

Ignorance can indeed be bliss.

Next up on my agenda was standing up on stage with all the other candidates while our praises were sung and everyone clapped and flashbulbs went off like small explosions.

The longer we were on stage, the straighter and stiffer my back became. I felt totally out of place with the rest of the candidates who'd "been there, done that". I was the bookworm in the midst of swans. No one voted for a worm in those circumstances. No one! Well, except for my own family of course.

I stood there as the runners up were announced. See? I didn't even make the also-rans. I knew I was right! The announcer knew how to kill people with suspense, or in my case kill me with boredom, because he drew every little detail out as long as he could. Perhaps he'd read my mind and wanted to deliver the killing blow because that's certainly what he did.

Dear Readers............... I WON!!!!!

Bookworms can triumph over beauty queens!

I kept my genuine rhinestone tiara for decades, along with that dress. In my heart of hearts, I guess I'd always harbored a secret longing to be Queen for a Day. I was one of the fortunate ones whose wish was granted. To this day I'm not sure how or why. All that I know is that I'm grateful.

How about you? Have any of you harbored your own secret wish? Was it granted?

Happy Independence Day to you all!


  1. Great story Cathy and wonderful photos - you do have a great collection of those which I really love seeing in your non-booky posts.

    I never had that kind of dream. I've discussed this at length with my American sister-in-law who grew up in a small town in Illinois and we both agree that this kind of thing is one of the big differences between the US and Oz - we just don't have anything like homecoming here although my sister in law said it was a big deal in her teenage life too - for similar reasons as you (she wasn't in the 'in' crowd).

    My secret wish from as young as I could remember was to go to Egypt - which I eventually did in my 20's - I took 8 months to travel through much of the Middle East and ended up volunteering on an archaeological dig in Egypt for a month. I grew up pretty poor and overseas travel was not something on the horizon for my family so I never talked about it much until I was working and saving up for my first trip.

  2. LOVE this post! What a great memory. Thanks for sharing with us, and Happy 4th!

  3. Wow, thanks for taking the time to share this memory. I grew up in small town midwestern America and know all about this kind of celebration. Just wonderful. And, by the way, your dress is lovely! I think it looks kind of Austenesque. Very pretty.

    Happy 4th!

  4. What a totally great (and inspiring!) story! Thanks for sharing it! Happy Fourth!

  5. Fabulous memory! And you are beautiful in your photos and your lovely dress. Happy 4th!

  6. This was a charming and heart-warming post. I was with you all the way. I'm so glad you shared this story today.

  7. You look beautiful in those pictures to me! I think we would have been friends in high school! I hope you have a great holiday today!

  8. What a great story! And, by the way, I love that dress. =)

  9. Like Bernadette, I didn't experience the reality of Homecoming, but I've seen it on TV. However, your writing really put me there, Cathy. I was blinking back tears at the end. Why aren't you writing fiction? I know this is the main reason I keep coming back to your blog - because of the posts that transport me someplace else.

  10. This was fantastic! As a fellow bookworm, your victory is a victory for all of us! I love it! And the photos were wonderful! And I think you are being way too hard on yourself -- you look great! And who hasn't dreamed of riding in a convertible and doing the royal wave. Thanks for sharing this story. It was just delightful to read!

  11. What a terrific story. I think you should get a fairy tale award!

  12. Bernadette--I'm glad you like my non-booky posts. They can be a lot of fun to write! :) My niece who lives outside of Manchester, England is about to go on her second trip to Egypt. That trip you scrimped and saved for sounds absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    B&B's Mommy--You're welcome. I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

    Mary--Wow...I never thought of that dress as Austenesque, but you're right! I was so lucky: my grandmother made that dress exactly to my specifications. It was so much better than buying one off a rack in a store!

    Rhapsody--You're welcome!

    Beth--Aw shucks. Thank you kindly! Now if only time and gravity would leave us humans alone! LOL

    Margot--Thank you. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I almost didn't share it because it's not bookish!

    Kathy--We probably would have been friends in high school. :)

    Elizabeth--I'm tickled to bits that y'all like my dress! :)

    Susan--What a lovely thing to say! The simplest response I can make is that I am writing fiction here on my blog to share with all of you, although I know that's really not what you mean. You did give me an idea for my next poll though! :)

    Jenners--Thank you so much. It makes me very happy that you enjoyed my tale. :)


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