Mary Beekman is a four-year-old ghost who resides in The Beekman Mansion, and considers Brent and Josh her “imaginary friends.” Follow Mary Beekman’s Diary each week to learn what it’s like to be a young child in early 19th century America
I had forgotten that it is Independence Day. When the men shot their rifles and the Cannon boomed early this morning I really was frightened. Then I remembered that Father had told me about the 4th. of July before I went to bed last night. He told us that this is the birthday of our nation. Thomas Jefferson led a committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence and it was voted and approved on July 4, 1776. It told Great Britain that we had decided to be independent and make our own rules. Josh and Brent jumped also when the guns went off. I was glad they were with me. They don’t do that where they live on July 4th. But they will do it again here at noontime. Brent thought there must be a war going on today. Our family went to church, dressed in our good clothes and sat a long time. We also had a hymn sing…..lots of hymns. They were long. We thanked God for our freedom and new nation and asked for his continued guidance and help in forming this country.
Everyone was wearing something that was red, white and blue. Even the buildings were dressed in red, white and blue bunting. I had a little flag and my sash was red, white and blue. The church bells rang and rang and rang. Father was in the Revolutionary War. He was an errand boy to a General so he really liked listening to all the speeches after church. By the time he gave his speech, I was getting hot and sat under a tree. Everyone speaks about this universal Yankee nation. Brent sat with me on the ground. Then Josh went looking for lemonade. He is always thirsty. I am too. We had a parade to watch with a brass band and a fire wagon and people with banners.
Mother said we had to be careful of what we eat today because of food being exposed to the boiling sun. People can even get sick from the water if it gets too hot outside and the glasses or pails are not clean. There are lots of flies. We are not going to eat at the tents where there are public dinners. We are going home and will eat outside by our pond where it is cooler. I hope we have some ice cream. We always have cakes, and ham and chicken. There will be games to play with some neighbors. The boys play baseball and there are three legged races. I like those. Brent and Josh sang Yankee Doodle Dandy* for me. I know the words to that. We marched in the barnyard while we sang. The dust rose in little clouds around our toes.
The best part is when we go to the top of the hill and watch the fireworks after dark. Uncle said the first fireworks display took place on July 4th, 1777 in Philadelphia. There were 13 rockets on the commons. The next year there were “serpents, wheels, table rockets, cherry trees, fountains, and sun flowers.”* I wish I could have seen the one called sun flower. He told me to cover my ears if the sound is too loud. Mother does not like me to stick my fingers IN my ears, so I just cover them with my hands. Lightening bugs are much quieter. Sometimes I watch them instead. If I lay down and rest my head in Mother’s lap, I can look up and see the stars too. I want to see a shooting star. It looks like a rocket display but it is quiet.
*The song “Yankee Doodle” mentions a man who “stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni”….the joke being that the Yankees were naive enough to believe that a feather in the hat was a sufficient mark of a “macaroni”
(one who exceeds the ordinary bounds of fashion) en.wikipedia.org
The Declaration of Independence was not signed by all representatives until August 1776. To make it official, John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress signed it……hence “put your John Hancock on it.” www.holidayinsignts.c