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Four Years at the Mount

Fourth of July

In Memoriam...

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

(7/2016) I planned to write this article as a story of my own creation featuring the Fourth of July, of course, and the patriotism and the determination of the American spirit; However, recent events have caused me to stray from this train of thought and, while I will mention the beauty of Independence Day, I will focus more on memories very near and dear to my heart.

I might have mentioned that when I was little I went to an all-girls Catholic school called Visitation Academy. It was opened in 1846 and run by the Sisters of the Visitation, which would continue to run the school until the order was moved in 2005. I was around eight years old when they left and still remember them very well. They were some of the greatest and kindest women I have ever met and my family was close to them. My father (along with others who had daughters at the school) would take weekends to help spruce the place up. Sometimes, my sister and I would go with him and play with our friends on the empty campus. I have many memories that originate from that school and they will remain with me forever. I have one in particular that I wish to share.

In my last article, I talked about my most cherished summer memories. I unknowingly left out an old tradition my family used to do on the Fourth of July every year. Independence Day is a great holiday: The smell of freshly mowed grass, and hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling on the grill and friends and relations gather in excitement under the fireworks. My family would celebrate the evening of the Fourth of July at the school. The nuns were, for the most part, cloistered and whatever money they did receive went back into the school. They lived very meager and humble lives and because of this, some families would bring them home cooked meals; my family was one of them. For July, my father would get for them a special treat; crabs. This delicacy was a favorite of the Sisterís. They would sit around the table, roll up the sleeves of their blouses and armed with wooden mallets they would enjoy their crabs in the summer evening.

Afterwards, they would allow my dad to borrow the keys to the topmost floors and our family, along with a few others would make the dusty, dark, and more than somewhat frightening journey all the way to the final door that lead to the Widow's Walk. This is a small, circular space on the roof of one of the buildings. It did not have a roof itself, only a white and black railing that surrounded the platform. The view, as I remember it, was spectacular. All of Frederick spread out before us and we seemed to be alone up there, above the streets. The warm July evening hung around us and we waited for the fireworks. First, you would hear faint popping noises and expecting ears would prick up in anticipation then the tell-tale whistle of the firework as it went up and up and up and then, bang! The night would explode into a burst of color and everyone would start to smile. Up on the roof, with my family, we would watch as the night would thunder and light up over and over with effervescent hues. Our faces would look to the sky as reds, greens and blues would capture our attention, a band somewhere in the distance would play the National Anthem, and the skyline of Frederick would bask in the kaleidoscopic glow of the fireworks.

Memory is a funny thing. Traditions often times meld together and one event becomes slurry of memories and you are not really sure if one particular instance happened three years ago or five. For example, I remember seeing the fireworks over Frederick, but the only day I truly remember is that one year in particular when it was raining and it was unlikely that the fireworks would even take place, but we still stood upon the roof, huddled under umbrellas. If I am completely honest, I do not remember whether the fireworks even happened that night, but I do remember the rain and the quiet laughter of those around us. I remember the feeling of being there, embraced by the brick walls that guarded this small plot of land that, to me, was a sanctuary from the rest of the world.

I will always remember Visitation Academy and will always hold all these wonderful memories deep in my heart. We would go up to that look out for several years on the Fourth of July until the Sisters left and we stopped. We still saw the fireworks, but it was not the same. So much has changed since the school opened, but it managed to last for 170 years of history; through Civil War and times of peace. Regrettably, the schoolís door will be closed by the time this paper is published, and a long tradition ended.

While my heart is broken, small part is happy for the memories I have of the Visitation Academy. A piece of me remains with that school, no matter what changes take place. I have lasting friendships thanks to that school and wherever I am in life I can close my eyes and be teleported years away, on that roof, watching the fireworks, as a band somewhere plays the National Anthem.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir