Hooray for smalltown red, white and blue

Published 6:29 pm Saturday, July 4, 2015

There are lots of times when I’m happy to live in a small town, but never more so than on a patriotic holiday.

First, there are the flags. Everywhere. At private homes, businesses, and City Hall. First United Methodist flies a whole bunch of them on patriotic days, and First Baptist has recently adopted the tradition, too.

How could anyone not feel proud?

I love that we celebrate with special services honoring veterans on Veterans Day and Memorial Day; that we have a Veterans Day Parade; and the now two-year tradition of a parade on the Fourth of July. What could be more patriotic than kids on bicycles and in little red wagons, waiving flags and grinning from ear to ear? For me, it’s simplicity and spontaneity make it even more endearing.

I love backyard barbecues and community events. I never make my way to the Kiwanis Center for fireworks without thinking of my grandfather, who never let us cut a watermelon from his garden before the Fourth. That’s when he believed they were sweet and ripe, and there’s generally plenty of the sweet treats at Andalusia’s Fourth event for all to enjoy.

Fresh vegetables also make me miss my grandparents. Oh, the bounty from their garden. They spent hours picking vegetables and preserving them to share with the family. Peas. Butterbeans. Squash. Corn. Tomatoes. I gave up cornbread, but I’d sure love a piece of my grandmother’s with a nice plate of vegetables. It was some kind of good.

When the figs come in, I’ll think of my aunts making their way to the fig tree by the barn, wary of snakes, but eager to make preserves. I think I am the last preserver of figs in my family, but I need them for another family tradition: fruitcake in the fall.

The past few weeks have been rife with controversy over mass killings; the removal of flags; and Supreme Court rulings.

The Fourth of July is a reminder that our founding fathers in their amazing wisdom constructed a Constitution that allows us to disagree with each other and with our government; that separates church from state and permits each of us to worship the god of our understanding. Look around at all the small churches created by disagreements within previous churches and imagine if, instead of the ability to do that, there was one state church.

It must be a sense of all that that led Charles Anderson to include Andalusia on his list of the top 100 small towns in America, In Search of Eden. We debuted at No. 49, later rose to No. 44, and jumped 11 notches to No. 33 and Anderson and his wife visited and saw how the community had embraced his designation.

Anderson put us on the list because we have many of the amenities of popular retirement places in Alabama at a fraction of the cost. He keeps moving us up because he likes our community spirit.

A wise man who happens to be my boss always says “We don’t have problems, we have opportunities.”

Andalusia is not without opportunities. But visit a few other towns and you’ll find you appreciate home even more. Small town Americana is a charming place to be, especially today.

I’ll see you at the parade.