Give Light ~ More than the Fourth ~
[This is a memory from the many decades the author has been privileged to write for daily and weekly newspapers circulating in Western Virginia.]
July is once again with us – the month of Independence, hot weather and good eating from our gardens.
It’s a month of many significant events in this columnist’s life.
To begin, I was born near the end of the month in the year the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression began. (You figure it out.)
On July 8, when I had just completed my first year of higher education, I discovered on the same afternoon that my single-parent mother had a life-threatening illness and the WW II veteran I might have married was also ill with a then-untreatable malady.
Two years later on the same July 8 evening, I became engaged to the love of my life, Charlie Stebbins.
And two years after that, July 14, 1951, he and I were married in a beloved cousin’s church, St. Paul’s Episcopal in Charlottesville. It just happened to be the French national holiday, Bastille Day. This summer we would have marked our 70th Anniversary, but death took him 13 years ago.
We both came of families who settled in Virginia in Colonial days. Patrick Henry – sadly today, in my opinion, being blamed for an evil accepted in his time – was a maternal ancestor of my husband.
It was quite fitting then that our first child, whom we named Julia Cary, was born on July 4. Living in Florida for many years, she has a significant birthday Sunday, for she’s 65. After our birth announcement went out, an elderly aunt of Charlie’s, also named Julia, wrote us to say her great-niece was born on her 75th birthday.
As if that wasn’t enough, our first son was born on July 6, 1958. We gave him the name of his Confederate cavalryman great-grandfather, Frank Stringfellow. A long-time steelworker and animal lover, Frank loves the country of Botetourt.
So, no month has more significance to me than July. Several of my church friends were also born in that month as were a maternal aunt and a paternal cousin.
Will I die in July? That’s up to God, the Higher Power, Man Upstairs – whatever feels correct to you.
Although the Salem Fair represents a highlight of summer for many and brings in money from countless visitors for our city, my neighbors and I do not welcome its arrival and were relieved when it could not safely be held in 2020. But now its unwelcome tents, trailers and rides have made their appearance.
We’re stuck with the traffic, noisy strangers roaming about our streets, occasional inebriates at 10:30 p.m.
I’ve lived near the Salem Civic Center since 1989. Admittedly, the fair’s patrons cause less trouble now than they did 30 years ago, for Salem City Police are evident and do their best to stem trespassing in yards and pilfering from gardens as we’ve known some to do. One is more careful than usual to lock doors and keep an eye on outdoor pets.
And, thankfully, it’s over in 10 days.
When I was serving as a docent at The Salem Museum on a recent Saturday, a three-generation family came in. The grandmother identified herself as a new resident of Salem; her daughter from Florida with a small boy were visiting. They were learning about the city’s favorite son, General Andrew Lewis, but the child in elementary school did not know of William Fleming; both 18th Century patriots have had high schools named for them. History in this part of Virginia is different from that more familiar from textbooks. Long after areas around Williamsburg, Richmond and Charlottesville were established and reflected the culture and names associated with the British Isles, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley areas seemed quite different.
We remember our patriots too.