The Fourth of July
The Fourth of July, Independence Day, has always been a fun celebration for me. For the record, it’s also one of those holidays that I believe should require that everything shuts down. I can sort of understand not agreeing on closing businesses on other holidays. We don’t all have the same religious beliefs or really like certain presidents. However, if we as a country cannot close our store doors to celebrate the day of our freedom, what is there really to celebrate at any other time? It is a day to be with family and friends celebrating life and liberty.
It was on this day, July 4th, in 1776 that the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, paving the way for parades, fireworks, and backyard barbecues. Okay, it opened the door for quite a bit more than that, but that seems to be what most Americans remember. The 13 colonies, on their way to being a sovereign nation, held 2.5 million people on that first July Fourth. Today the United States has roughly 316.2 million. We have definitely grown as a country and have gone from fighting for our own freedom to going to war to bring freedom to other nations.
A year after independence was had, Philadelphia held the first celebration, even while the war was still going on. The following year, George Washington celebrated the event by giving double rations of rum to his soldiers. Now, that’s my kind of commander. Three years after that, in 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to make an official holiday of July Fourth, still several months from our victory in Yorktown. However, it wasn’t until 1941 that Independence Day became a federal holiday allowing the politicians and bank employees another paid holiday while the rest of us worked our bums off to pay for it.
When I was younger, the place to be on July 4th was the Eau Gallie Public Library on the northwest corner of the Eau Gallie Causeway. The city had put together an all day family festival that would end with fireworks being blasted into the air over the Indian River. There were games for kids, a fish fry, and music throughout the day. Many years found us running around the place, full of excitement as we won prizes and stuffed ourselves silly.
As I grew older, the celebration was moved from the Eau Gallie Causeway to the Melbourne Causeway. We would pack a picnic lunch, grab some fishing poles and some lawn chairs and back our cars up along the river to enjoy the evening before the fireworks would be set off. At that point, we would curl up in blankets, couples would wrap arms around each other and we would get lost in the spectacular light show that exploded above us. When a certain firework became a favorite, my sister and I would name it after a cartoon character in an attempt to remember it year after year. Of course, there were those sudden white explosions that sounded like cannon fire and rattled your eardrums. We hated those.
There’s something romantic about watching fireworks with your significant other. The two of you sitting on the ground, wrapped in a blanket or perhaps laying on the back of a car or in the bed of a truck, heads together, fingers intertwined as colored lights explode in loud bursts overhead. It’s easy to get lost in the atmosphere of each other, even when surrounded by hundreds of people. It’s the perfect date every year.
When our children started arriving, we took up the same tradition and friends and family gathered at the river’s edge with coolers and games, canopies and chairs, and made an afternoon of it. While buckets of chicken and cans of soda sat beside us, we played cards as the Brevard Symphony Orchestra played in the background. The football was tossed and the Frisbee thrown. We even walked the pier and watched the sailboats drift by. After the fireworks ended, we’d play with sparklers while the crowd thinned out, giving traffic a chance not to be annoying.
As the children grew older, they began to wander off to their own celebrations. They had their own parties, their own friends. It’s the Circle of Life, but that’s okay. We had our friends, too, and we began to have our own barbecues and set off our own fireworks. We won’t sit by the river, but instead float around a pool or relax in a hot tub. As with all other holidays, this one will require a new tradition. Yet, it doesn’t matter where we celebrate or even how. It only matters that we do, because regardless of how much we may grumble about politicians and their greed induced stupidity, we are still free. Free to pursue our dreams. Free to live our life as we should. We’re even free to complain about the things we don’t like. This country isn’t perfect, but it’s still one of the best.
Make this day about celebration. Gather your family and friends and raise a glass to freedom and to life. Then cuddle up, watch the fireworks, and twirl some sparklers. The girls and I will be doing just that tomorrow. We need these breaks to remind us that things aren’t as bad as they could be. So do yourself a favor and take it. I’ll see you in the pool!
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