I don't remember how old I was when I started to cry during the National Anthem, but I can't get through the song today without welling up.
Something about all that pride, sacrifice, and the pain and pleasure of memory coming together in the words of a song that has become a part of my DNA as surely as my eye color and gender.
On Monday, when my family and I joined more than 1,000 others at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami to watch the simulcast of the President's inauguration, I stood with my daughters and wondered when they would start to feel this weight of powerful emotions summoned into place by just a few chords.
I wanted them to see the flag-waving, massive scene on the National Mall as big as possible, to experience the tradition so it becomes as sure and familiar as a day in church or a morning at school.
The older I get, the stronger I feel about tradition and my daunting responsibility for grooming patriotism in my kids. Not the "love it or leave it" kind, but the love of country that comes from pride in accomplishments and the realization that much work is left to be done.
"Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright," President Obama told us on Monday. "With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom."
The flags, the formality, the poems and the songs – those were just the trappings of a day designed to encourage a new generation to roll up its shirtsleeves so we can keep trying to turn idealistic principles into practice.
I know all the words they heard may not stick, but I'm pretty sure the memory will.