|Flag Day 2011|
Most people don’t know anything about the glory of Flag Day—why we have it, what day it is, or when it started. Now I still don’t really know what the intended purposes were, but for me and my younger brother, it’s one of the best days in June. It’s June 14th, actually, and we almost miss it every year because there’s no insane advertising inundation leading up to the fateful day like there is for Christmas or the Fourth of July.
Still, it’s my favorite day in June.
We first began celebrating Flag Day seven(-ish?) years ago. My brother and I had just come home from an afternoon at the river. The skin on our cheeks and shoulders was taut and freckled with sun. My calves and hamstrings burned from the perilous hike up the steep rock cliffs that led to our own private oasis on the sun-baked river bank. We drove home in my shaky 1988 Honda Prelude, windows down blasting DC Talk and dancing carelessly, free. (Even now I’m not ashamed of my love for DC Talk)
At home we ravaged the kitchen for ice cold sodas—Cherry Pepsi for him, Diet Pepsi for me—still in our bathing suits.
“Aly, let’s make a cake,” Cameron declared as he flashed me his dimpled smile that gets him out of chores and punishment, even when he’s as guilty as a child caught sneaking cookies before dinner.
“Okay,” I conceded, not that it took much convincing.
“We don’t have cake mix,” he looked at me with the eyes of a wounded animal, but I already knew how to save the day.
“We could go to Mike’s,” I suggested. Mike’s was the convenience store right down the hill from us. We used to ride our bikes down to purchase candy bars for ourselves and milk for our mom. It hadn’t been called Mike’s for a couple of years since an Arab couple took over the store, but it would always be Mike’s to us.
“We should bake the cake for Mom. When does she get home?” Cameron asked me. I was surprised at his spontaneous selflessness and felt a little guilty that I hadn’t thought of it first.
“That way she’ll give us money for it.” No need for guilt, there’s the Cameron I knew.
“We could say it’s a birthday cake, or maybe her half-birthday!” His excitement was growing as he schemed. Meanwhile I made my way over to the calendar, checking if there was some kind of holiday that was close enough to justify baking a cake.
I rushed to my room to throw on some clothes, yelling to Cameron to do the same.
“We’re going to Mike’s, Cameron! It’s Flag Day! Everyone needs a Flag Day cake!”
Five minutes later clad in cut off shorts and old gymnastics t-shirts, my brother and I stood in front of the cake mixes preparing to make the most difficult decision of the summer thus far: what kind of cake is appropriate for a Flag Day celebration?
Our eyes greedily studied the sumptuous labels of rich, moist, luscious cakes, and then stopped scanning at exactly the same time. I turned to Cameron and met his brilliant blue eyes as we both broke into a smile.
“Yellow cake, chocolate frosting,” we said in unison.
|Flag Day 2010|
Cameron, today I want to say thank you for being my brother.
For being you.
For your unwavering confidence in me.
For your outrage at my pain.
For the songs you’ve written me.
For the times we’ve laughed so hard we’ve snorted and cried.
For the times when you had every right to be angry at me, to look down on me, to judge me, and instead you scooted into the seat next to me, wiped my tears, and told me you loved me. I have never experienced such grace.
For the love of words and poetry and creativity that we share.
For trusting me with your scribbled journal entries and half-formed songs.
For guarding the scribbled bits of my heart that I’ve shared with you.
For the joy you bring me when I see you perform, your eyes alive and your heart on fire.
For the Flag Day cakes.
You play a leading role in my love story with God and my journey to love myself. You are an unwarranted fit of compassion in my life.
Happy Birthday, you butthead. Enjoy your yellow cake and chocolate frosting.
P.S. I have an older brother who has greatly shaped and blessed my life as well. He will get a tribute on November 1st, his birthday.