There was a ritual in my parents’ household during my youth. On the mornings of Flag Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day and Veterans Day, Dad retrieved our American flag from a shelf in the front hall closet, unfolded it, attached it to its slender pole and displayed it from an aluminum bracket that was permanently affixed to an exterior wall just outside our front door.
There the flag waved in the breeze throughout the holiday until just before sundown, when my father would summon me to help him fold it and put it away. Otherwise a somewhat happy-go-lucky type of man who seemed to me to have been put on Earth expressly for the purpose of having a good time, Dad nonetheless took this job very seriously. His easy laughter was mute during the times he had the flag in his hands. It was, he believed, his solemn duty to treat this symbol with deep respect — even reverence.