Later this afternoon, Hank and I will be hosting a group of family and friends for an almost Fourth of July celebration. 

If anything, today’s turnout will likely be a bit smaller than it has been in the past. For various reasons, a few of the regulars can’t make it and we certainly understand. 

Most everyone we know travels life at a breakneck pace, juggling work, home, kids, caregiving and countless other demands. Free Time is at a premium and even Fun Things must sometimes fall by the wayside. 

Whoever comes, though, will be greeted with food, drink and hugs and urged to kick back and relax. 

In the summer, one of the places where we do just that is in our backyard gazebo. It was built in the mid-1980s and it’s a screened-in outdoor room with ceiling fans, a small fridge and plenty of chairs with overstuffed cushions. 

Being out there is like being on vacation without leaving home. 

Over the past week or so, I’ve been adding to the usual furnishings with some patriotic decorations. In red, white and blue, of course. I’ve also put up a half-dozen or so hand-held American flags, the kind you wave at a parade. 

I’ve never really been a big flag person. In fact, I think last year was probably the first time I’d bought a bunch of them. 

There was a reason for that. During the Summer of ‘16, the presidential campaign really began heating up to a distressing level. Amid the rancor, I found myself thirsting for something familiar and comforting, something that would remind me what Independence Day is all about. 

So I went for The Flags. 

This year, I bought even more. And as I tucked them here and there inside our gazebo the other day, I thought about why They Matter. 

Truth is, the unease I felt on July 4, 2016 hasn’t gone away. If anything, it has grown, with So Much Uncertainty about So Many Things. Waking up in the dead of the night, it’s hard not to worry. Maybe because there’s so much to worry about. 

I guess that’s why I seek constants to cling to. Without question, the family and friends we’ll welcome today are chief among them. 

But in case you’re thinking we are All Of The Same Mind, you couldn’t be more wrong. 

For the record, some of us voted for one candidate, some of us voted for another. And our political views don’t always mesh. And sometimes clash. 

But that’s OK. It’s more than OK. Because we all know that when it’s important, when it counts, we are there for each other. 

Maybe that’s why The Flag speaks so strongly to me. Because it is a flag that reminds me of Us. 

A flag that stands as a symbol of what connects us, what unites us. Even in the most trying of times.