After weeks of rain – weeks and weeks and weeks – Friday the 4th of July, 2008, dawned bright and breezy. Halcyon, you might say. The picnic crowd on the lawn of the Moses Mason House in Bethel for the 16th annual Fourth of July concert by the Portland Brass was a happy, chatty one.

Probably we didn’t see all the River Valley faces in that crowd, but there were Dennis and Dru Breton near the gazebo and Mandy Parsons. Bernie Mickeriz introduced herself.

(She’s French, her husband is Lithuanian, Patty Hopkins, who is also Lithuanian, later explained to me. “In fact, I think my mother or maybe my aunt was her husband’s godfather.”)

Retired Army Col. Errol Briggs, who was born in Mechanic Falls and lived for a time in Harrison, opened the program. He spoke of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and reported that it was read in its entirety on public radio that morning.

The audience stood silent as the Allen Mundt American Legion Post presented the colors. When the quintet struck up our national anthem, many of us sang, weakly at first, but strong when we came home to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

No tears, but a lump rose in the throat. For that little time in the sun and breeze you could feel that old feeling: patriotic pride, pure and simple. If that pride was sometimes misplaced, even blind, still it felt good and experiencing it once more on the Fourth of July. Nostalgia.

Sweet as it was then to sit in the sun and tap a toe to John P. Sousa’s “Washington Post March” last Friday, events of the rain season haven’t lost their bite.

Example: The burden was on us to prove to a phone company that the check posted by the phone company’s billing department as a 9-cent payment (that’s right: $ .09) was in fact a check for $90. Oh the time it has taken, the calls, the frustration, the ill temper – mine: “Aren’t you even a little sorry?!”

Perhaps thunder and lightning storms strike fire in the minds and hearts of boards of selectmen. Or is Rumford Rage spreading like wildfire? Up, down and across the River Valley, accusations, resignations, firings. Reasonable people run for cover.

And they find respite in events like the Bethel Historical Society’s community picnic and concert on the 4th of July.

Linda Farr Macgregor lives with her husband, Jim, in Rumford. She is a freelance writer. Contact her: [email protected]

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