“To be free” means different things to each of us, and to many of us, it is taken for granted. We, who are now older, do fully realize all the freedoms we enjoy in America and have come to appreciate them to the fullest.

Many of us “more mature” citizens, however, can remember our grandparents who were delighted they could come to America and enjoying the freedoms of our land was a real blessing to them. I can remember some of their experiences in the days of my childhood.

The year 1937 stands out in my mind because that Fourth of July was the first one after my older sister’s death the August before. I was still learning to do things on my own without her assistance.

The holiday was a hot, muggy day. We arrived at my Grandparent Lange’s house, located on Buhler’s Main Street and I ran to the back screen door, and threw it open with the wild abandonment of a 4-year-old on a mission.

Of course I let in some of the pesky flies of that day, but I could still hear the distant chatter of my cousins in the middle guestroom of the house and was in a hurry, lest I miss out on something.

My Uncle Herb Winter’s voice could be heard in the foreground, muttering something about “kids these days” as he used the flyswatter on the pesky things.

Of course, I did not recognize my part in the fiasco, and ran into the middle bedroom where my cousins were draped around, talking. “Did you bring any firecrackers?" my cousin Dick asked, “We get to do fireworks tonight!”

My blonde, bobbed hair shook negatively. My four-year-old mind was pleased that my older cousin would even think me capable of lighting a firecracker! “If he just knew how scared I am of those things!” I thought to myself, but I would never let him know!

It was exciting to be at my grandpa and grandma’s house on the Fourth of July with all my cousins. Even the small town of Buhler was exciting on a holiday. It was 1937 and life was still simple and uncomplicated. Kind of like leftover mashed potatoes when you’re really hungry!

Talking ceased momentarily as my grandfather stood at the doorway, seemingly glaring at us. He had a certain look about him because of his bad eyesight, that made me speechless. I have come to know that his eyesight improved after his cataract surgery. He was a commanding figure who worked at the Dixie Lily Flour Mill in Buhler, but never learned the English language very well and he and grandma mostly spoke German.

Grandpa must have experienced an exciting life moving his family from Germany to Russia to escape the militarism of that day. Then to move them to the United States took a lot of gumption. My mother, Emma, was even born on the ship coming over. He didn’t talk much, except at home in German. I was always in awe of him, as were my other cousins -- with Dick the exception, of course!

The evening took on a magic of its own. The men took the dining room chairs out to the front lawn, near the Buhler Main Street. As dusk began to fall, the Main Street became an extravaganza of staccato sounds in the early evening air.

Cousin Dick introduced all us cousins to something new that year, the sparkler! At first, I was sure the sparks would burn my hand, but after trying it, I got more confident and Dorothy and I had the time of our lives making designs in the night sky. Once again, after my sister was shot, I could be totally happy!

When the supply of sparklers ran out, I crawled up on my Dad’s lap and watched the neighbor kids down the block. There was no traffic on the Buhler Main Street that night as people sat outside like one big, happy family -- the way it should be.

Later, the women put the ingredients together for homemade ice cream and the men turned the ice cream freezer until it was done. As I looked around at all my cousins; Dorothy Lange and her two brothers, Paul and Lewis. Dick, Johnny, Jim Winter, all my aunts and uncles, my grandparents and my parents and I felt so safe and blessed!

Many years have passed since 1937 but the memories of family, hard times and good times together will live on in the wonderful country of America. God has truly blessed America, even though not all the people have followed His leading.

As I look around, I am so happy for the family God has given me -- a loving husband, a son and a daughter, two great in-laws, five grandsons and their families. The greatest gift, however, was the gift of God’s son Jesus who I accepted into my heart when I was ten and has been with us all these years and really made life wonderful.

God has blessed our country and given us blessings galore. He has done everything for us that He can. He cannot do more unless we accept Him into our lives as our very own and follow His leading.

Wirh God in the equation there is nothing that can keep America from being great again! I just have to close this column with the famous words, GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Sing it!

Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached at dorisschroeder@att.net