On July 4, 1976 I had a pretty exciting holiday celebrating Operation Sail in New York City. The country was celebrating The Bicentennial with dance, music, art, movie events and more celebrated all leading up to Operation Sail. 

“They will move up the amphitheater of New York Harbor like visions out of the past, a stately procession of tall ships with ghost‐white sails and fluttering ensigns, gliding silently toward a city of strange towers and 20th‐century anachronisms. Yards braced, canvas flying, halyards singing in the wind, the majestic column of 14 to 17 square riggers will stand up the Hudson then, and in its wake will come a vast armada of more than 200 barques, barquentines, brigantines, schooners, yawls, ketches and sloops.”   – The New York Times Archives, March 1, 1976.


The arrival that year of Apple, Star Wars, and “Afternoon Delight” also invited new adventures. What better celebration for a bunch of 20-something New Jerseyans on July 4th than witness Operation Sail- in person?! Tents, snacks, liquid refreshments were all we needed. We claimed a spot near the edge of the Palisades overlooking the Hudson River in Weehawken, New Jersey. We’d have a prime viewing for the Parade of Tall Ships the next day.

The eve of July 4th was loud and warm, with lots of music and dancing, great fun, and very little sleep, if any at all. Only the human alarm clock of shouts the next morning got me up. “They’re here!” Crawling out of our little 2-person tent, July 4, 1976 gleamed in the sun.  And like visions out of the past, up the harbor the procession of tall ships did glide. “This … is amazing. I am part of history.”




On a more low-key note, excitement had been spreading in Washington School, W. Caldwell NJ all year leading up to our own Bicentennial celebration. In 1976 I was teaching kindergarten. We had math lessons of counting 200 – pieces of gum, Cuisenaire rods, steps, and 200 Lego pieces. We knew first-hand what a 200-piece Twin Towers of Legos looked like. We enacted events from 1776, like the fictional story of ringing the Liberty Bell on July 4, and sang every patriotic song we could teach.

One precocious kindergartener made a picture of a birthday cake and painstakingly drew 200 “candles” all over the cake. He then wrote across the top “Happy Bicentennial USA.” I often wonder where that artist is today. He’d be about 52. 







In 1976 I was 29. On March 15, 2023, I will celebrate my own 76. I feel a similar excitement to the one that rippled through me in 1976. And I do believe I am a part of history. I know I’m getting older. Some physical signs remind me to spend more time on self-care. Mostly I feel wiser, settled – not in settling for second best. But settled in myself, in my beliefs and values. It’s a good place to be.


Through all of these 76 years I’ve traveled with one of the most special and brilliant people I know- my twin Eileen, known by readers of Thinking of Miller Place as my Finn. 76 years of learning, singing, dancing, teaching, sharing, crying, laughing, and having a fantastic life – so far.

Life is good. 






If you want to find out more about our twinship, check out my coming of age book, Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort.  Twinship is, of course, my lifelong experience, along with us having a big sister too. And it’s pretty darn neat!  Click on the title or Contact me HERE for an author-inscribed copy.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. These days, she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Artists Standing Strong Together, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.