I have the most patriotic 6-year-old I know. He loves red, white and blue, and anything decorated with stars and stripes.

I have the most patriotic 6-year-old I know. He loves red, white and blue, and anything decorated with stars and stripes.


He’s passionate about all things American, including our national pastime, and pitches facts about national monuments, bald eagles and the U.S. Mint at me when I least expect them.


Above all, he has a fondness for our national anthem that borders on obsession.


Brian’s interest in “The Star-Spangled Banner” developed around the time of this year’s Winter Olympics.


Watching our winning athletes on the medal stand, he remained quiet from the first stroke of the drum roll to the last cymbal crash.


After the closing ceremonies, he started flipping on the TV early enough for sporting events to hear the anthem, listening raptly every time.


Before long, it wasn’t enough for Brian to merely listen to the anthem; he had to learn to perform it. He’d scamper onto the piano bench, picking out the tune note by note.


With a little help on the tricky parts, he mastered the melody, and now plays it almost daily. Usually he lets us remain seated during a performance, but sometimes he’ll insist that the entire family stand at attention.


He can also sing the anthem, which is no mean feat for a blossoming first-grader. Actually, it’s no mean feat for anyone.


With its wide range and lurching rhythms, the anthem challenges singers of all stripes, as countless sports fans have witnessed over the years.


The melody, originally an 18th-century English drinking tune, had been used for other patriotic songs in the early years of U.S. independence.


Then, Francis Scott Key wrote his stirring poem, inspired by his sighting of the flag following the intense battle at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.


As Key’s song was published in newspapers, the flag became an enduring American symbol, and the beginnings of our national vocal challenges took root.


Neither the vocal difficulties nor the somewhat tawdry history of the music bothers Brian.


He’ll sing the anthem for anyone who will listen, in tune and with enormous pride in his mastery of the words.


So great is his fervor for the song that for his recent birthday party, he wanted a Star-Spangled Banner theme.


I indulged him with patriotic paperware and miniature flags for the goody bags, but drew the line at a performance.


Gently, I explained that not all of his friends share his interest, and that his guests would probably enjoy traditional birthday party games more than listening to him play the anthem on the piano, or having a sing-a-long.


Brian is immune to his peers’ blasé attitude. He continues to sing and play the tune, and asks for my recording of the U.S. Air Force Band as often as other kids might request Justin Bieber.


I’m not discouraging it.


Brian has dreams of being a professional ballplayer, but if they don’t work out, maybe his gleaming performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” will be his ticket to the majors someday.


Julie Fay is a winner of the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Read more at www.juliefaysblog.blogspot.com.