I’m not sure if Independence Day or Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday of the year, the first being my birthday. Each has its own feel, but since today is the Fourth of July I’m going with the red, white, and blue.
Yesterday some friends invited us to join them for dinner tonight. They live on the bluff and can see the fireworks from their windows without having to arrive umpteen hours early and score a blanket spot on the beach. Earl and I did that once; we’re glad to be able to say we did it, but we weren’t planning a repeat performance. Instead, thanks to friends, we get to see the show without mingling among the masses. We are not great mass minglers.
I’m reminded of other Fourths of July: the ones when my children were growing up, and we did claim blanket real estate for the firework show. Only it was Libertyville, Illinois, in the eighties and nineties, not St. Joseph, Michigan. It was local Butler Lake, not mighty Lake Michigan
One year my two sons and I went down the Mississippi on the Delta Queen, a truly American paddle wheel boat. It was the year of the bicentennial, so this was even before our Libertyville days. I don’t know what my sons remember but a wonderful three day trip is etched in my memory. We stopped in Louisville, Kentucky, where there was a silhouette artist doing quick-draws on the landing. Of course I had to have my sons in silhouette. Captured for all time at ages seven and four. I framed the artist’s work and hung it in various homes until, at last, I can no longer remember where I let it go.
Then there are the cookouts and rainouts and Little League baseball games and birthday parties for Earl’s daughter, who was born on July 3. According to Earl, she thought the fireworks in Chicago’s Grant Park were for her. (I’ve not heard her side, but I suspect she caught on.) There are boat rides and sunburns and neighbors shooting rockets. Patriotic music, a communal feeling of solidarity which is a respite to the gridlock in Washington, and an appreciation that we are truly blessed as a country.
Those fifty-two men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 would not recognize the country they brought into existence, but I believe they would be proud that it endures.