Veteran’s Day.

posted in: Paean 2
Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958. Encaustic on canvas, 30 7/8 × 45 1/2 × 5 in. (78.4 × 115.6 × 12.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary Gift of the Gilman Foundation Inc., The Lauder Foundation, A. Alfred Taubman, Laura-Lee Whittier Woods, and purchase  80.32 Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958. Encaustic on canvas, 30 7/8 × 45 1/2 × 5 in. (78.4 × 115.6 × 12.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary Gift of the Gilman Foundation Inc., The Lauder Foundation, A. Alfred Taubman, Laura-Lee Whittier Woods, and purchase 80.32 Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

The question, “Who am I?” is laughably vague. Are you supposed to answer that in specifics? Example: “I am male. I am 60-years-old. I am 6’2.” Or is it meant to be answered abstractly, even dramatically? Example: “I’m searching. I’m broke. I’m only flesh and bone.” Sometimes that question is just plain cruel, given to high-school freshmen to determine too early a career path.

If I were asked to take a stab at it, though, I know what my first answer would be. I’ve known it for a long time.

I’m an American.

Being an American is the characteristic that comes first in my “Who I am” book. My family does not identify strongly with ancestry. I’m a little Norwegian (Dad’s side) and a little Scottish (Mom.) I’m a Fons for sure (it’s the nose.) So I feel American before I feel much else. It’s in my core. It is my core. The spirit of my country pulses in my veins. I work hard to make sure I’m good enough for this blood.

How do I try? I work hard. Even when I’m afraid, I try to be brave. I am a total idiot, but I try to learn from the head-over-heels tumbles I take and when I crash into someone else in the process, it feels right to help them back up and fix it, and I try to do that. American is a wild horse and I feel like a wild horse: out of control, ambitious, messy, able to use my powers for good if I focus. And I like to have fun.

All the sailors, all the flowers. All the wagon trains, the butter churns. All the novels, the rivers of money, the mistakes, the disgraces, the candy stripers clicking heels down the hallways. The mud spatters on the boots. The unregulated masses, all the glittering city blocks. Kansas. Every outdoor concert venue, every blackberry bush, all the kids in the high rises. The medication. The journalists, the crates of fish, the lawns. All the pig troughs, the seashells, the test tubes and the sewing machines. The elderly. The algae. The ox.

America, I love it all. And people just like me and you and my neighbor in the next unit over died for it all and are dying for it all right now. They do it so we can glimpse the fawn and buy the car and smile at the baby in the ICU; so we can listen to Madonna records and open a bakery. Start a bridge club. Film a movie. Get a job. Keep it. Get a raise.

Thank you. I will probably not sacrifice my life for my country, but I promise to live for it.

2 Responses

  1. Alison Joy Vorreyer
    | Reply

    Hi Mary! I just got home from the Heritage Quilt meeting in Lockport where you spoke. Wow! I am SO glad my Mom invited me to come to the meeting. She was just joining the group, and me, well I guess I am a groupie! I don’t quilt, or sew, but yes, grew up with my Mom sewing, she ALWAYS sewed, and I have her first quilt hanging on my wall, yes from 1976(!!!) and Thank You Jesus it isn’t redwhiteandblue.

    : ) I guess I should know what the quilt style it is, but I don’t, I just know it contains a scrap of me and my sisters (there are 5 of us, and only 2 have sewing machines) clothes, pajamas, coats, etc etc from the 1960’s and early 70’s. It is memory lane every time I look at it.

    I loved your talk, you covered a lot of territory and it was all good. You are a spark Mary, and wonderful, and inspiring! And you know, it is so ODD, but I recently got a tote bin thingee out that has my ‘sewing’ stuff in it, so when I came home from your talk, there in the kitchen right when I walked in, was this tote. That said Sewing Stuff on it. Hmmmm.

    I told my Mom in the parking lot that I appreciate her geometry precision quilts but the only quilt I can imagine making is a crazy quilt, no rules, make it up as I go, tons of colors, yeah! We laughed, I said ‘those are MY pants’, haha.

    So thank you, so much, for your enthusiasm for what you DO. I liked your Veterans Day message above too btw. Yeah, God bless America, and God bless everybody, and every nation. And I am glad I am here, to meet my Mom at the local church and to learn something new. Thanks again for brightening up Lockport on a cold dark night. I hope you get well real quick, you got a lot to do and need your health! Alison Joy

    • Mary Fons
      | Reply

      Alison, you are indeed “a Joy.” Thanks. I hope to see you around here often. xo, Mary

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