We have a flag pole out front of our house. We unfurl and
raise the flag most days -- if it isn't raining, that is. It's a fitting
way to show respect, (and to honor our troops overseas and the
sacrifices made by our our military veterans).
But the exercise isn't as rewarding or as poignant an experience as it was in bygone days when our seven-year-old granddaughter, Janae, would take part in the retreat ceremonies. We didn't do it as a team very often, (perhaps three or four times a month), because she usually wasn't at our house when the flag lowering took place. But it was a real treat for me; a truly memorable experience.
Janae had so much enthusiasm and the utmost respect for the flag (and the ritual). She and I would position ourselves on opposite sides of the pole. Being the tallest, it was my duty to unfasten the ropes and slowly, (she insisted on slowly), lower the flag.
Little Janae would catch hold of the banner as soon as it was within her reach and carefully bundle it -- making absolutely sure it didn't touch the ground. Then with military precision, we'd stretch it out tightly (each of us holding two corners), and fold it twice laterally. With the field of stars on my side, she would begin the triangular fold.
With geometric precision, (Pythagoras couldn't have done better), she would repeat the move -- first left over right and then right over left, and so on. With the completion of the final fold, our hands met, and she took the triangular bundle in her arms. And then came the sweetest and most touching part.
Arms crossed, holding the flag to her chest, (rivaling the pace and the sanctity of a Vatican procession), she would walk slowly (ever so slowly) to the front door. I'd give her a kiss on the top of the head and a big hug. She'd smile widely. It was a special time for both of us.
And when her younger sister Kayla was old enough to pitch in, she joined the flag detail, taking Janae's place. Not surprisingly, Kayla was just as sweet and as deliberate as her older sister. It was important to do it right! And it's so much easier to do things right when you have the leadership and the inspiration of caring children.
These days, my wife Betty or I take down the flag solo — respectfully,but with much less ceremony — folding it carefully, (but much as one would fold a large bath towel). Times change.
Times change , but memories linger ... wonderful memories of our girls and the West Doris Ave retreat ceremonies.