What a wonderful day this has been! I’ve had tears in my eyes at least three times! Happy tears!
Matthew was up practically all night – he slept with Julie, and she didn’t get more than a couple of hours shut-eye. He was just so excited! She said it seemed like every 30 minutes Matthew was asking, “Is it my birthday yet?” And finally, it was!
His day started with presents, with help from Bear who kept hoping someone had given Matthew dog biscuits. No luck. Then the questions began again. “What is my surprise? Where are we going to get it? How big is it? When can we leave?” Ted and I just smiled and kept on getting ready, urging Matthew and Jordan and Julie to hurry up – we had to be somewhere by 9 a.m. Of course, Julie knew what was going to happen, and Julie had told Jordan yesterday – so Matthew was the only one in the dark. And it was driving him crazy!
At a little after nine, we all got on our bikes. We told Matthew just to follow us “Where? Where?” We arrived at the fort and locked our bikes just outside. The fort wasn’t open yet, but they were expecting us, and we went in before the gates officially opened. Soon we saw a group of Boy Scouts approaching, along with a scoutmaster and Shannon, who coordinates the scout activities for the park service – and Shannon was carrying a large box. We all followed this group onto the fort grounds and to the flagpole where the huge fort flag flies each day.
The scoutmaster asked Matthew to step closer to the flag pole, and then Shannon opened the box and presented two of the scouts with the flag that had been inside. The scouts attached the flag to the halyard’s snap hooks and stood ready. At precisely 9:30, a bugler played Reveille, followed by the shooting of a cannon. At that moment every U.S. flag on Mackinac Island was raised.
As soon as the flag had reached the top of the pole and had flown for a few seconds, the Scouts began to lower it again. I think it was at this point that Matthew began to realize what was happening. The Scouts retrieved the flag and stepped over to the side to fold it. They asked Matthew if he would like to help.
When the flag had been completely folded, with the last corner tucked inside, the scout presented the flag to Matthew. Shannon brought over a certificate that had been signed by Phil Porter, the Director of Mackinac State Historic Parks. Tears of pride welled up for our little grandson and for this great country in which we live.
Another special flag was flown as soon as Matthew’s flag had been taken down. The Park Service was expecting its 20 millionth visitor sometime today, and that lucky person would receive the second flag. When the two special ceremonies had been completed, the flag that is normally flown was raised. That flag is huge and can be seen over the fort when you come into the harbor on the ferries.
Matthew was so excited. He decided immediately that this would be a much better “show and tell” than the horseshoe we had found.
We left our bikes at the park and walked downtown to pick up Matthew’s birthday cake and a package for him at the post office from another set of grandparents. Then we went back and got our bikes and started home – with the flag box in my bike basket and the cake in Ted’s. Just before we got to the trail through the woods that we use as a shortcut, my cellphone rang. It was Blair, our daughter-in-law, calling to let me know that she had just dropped Blake off at the Atlanta airport. The tears came again. A few more hours, and I would see my 6’1″, 32 year old, youngest son!
I had sat on my bike and talked to Blair for at least 20 minutes, and when I got home the cake was on the counter and GDaddy was putting on the candles. He lit them, Matthew made a wish, then he blew them all out. I made a wish also – that we would have many more summers here with our family sharing these wonderful moments.
At 6:24 p.m., Blake’s plane landed in Pellston, and I finally got to hug my son. He looked wonderful. We waited at the docks for the 7:30 ferry to take us across to Mackinac Island, where the rest of the family waited. He walked around the ferry during the crossing, snapping pictures to load onto Facebook tonight or tomorrow. We ate supper at the Chippewa Hotel, and then we all took a taxi home.
It does this mother’s heart so much good to know he is sleeping upstairs right now under the same roof that we are. The next two weeks will fly by, and I plan to enjoy every minute and try to stretch them out as long as possible. Thank you, Lord for bringing him safely home and safely here to us . . . more happy tears.