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©July 2003

Carol Jane Remsburg

 

 

 

A Family 4th of July

 

 

 

Over the last few years I had gotten away from the regular festivities of the 4th of July.  My excuse was that I was not only on vacation but it was a day I set aside to spend with my daughter and my grown niece and her hubby by taking them to Jolly Roger's water park in Ocean City, Maryland—less than 30 minutes away.  We'd hit the park when they opened at 10 AM and slide and ride and swim and cavort until I felt almost dead.  We'd eat a late lunch—head for home where I would shower up and melt into a recliner savoring the joys of my air conditioned home and try not to moan about my sunburn.  Leaving at near dusk to ride another 20 minutes into town to find a spot to watch the fireworks was NOT on my schedule.  I was already too pooped to pop—or even watch the booming cascades of thundering light as they fell.

 

Sometimes my daughter would go with others while I hid at home recuperating from the day of fun trying to stay awake until her return so I could fall into bed and sleep.  This year was different.  I wasn't on vacation this week and the 4th fell upon a Friday.  I was lucky that my employer did recognize this day as a holiday and was gifted with a 3-day weekend. 

 

For two weeks prior the thought flitted about my head.  What ought I do on this day, this special day?  For without realizing it, we had celebrated in our own fashion.  Many others have family barbecues and poolside parties and in general just pull together for the sheer joy of it.  It's often in the back of our minds what the day does mean—at least to the adults.  To the children among us, it's just another summer, school-less day, that often they actually get to spend with their parents.  My daughter managed half that, her father had to work.

 

At 12, my daughter thinks the 4th of July is swim-time, not exactly attuned to what it really means.  To her it isn't that the day commemorates the most awesome thing we Americans hold dear—our FREEDOM.  To the thinking adults of this world and this land, we know exactly what it does mean.  America is and always has been a work-in-progress sort of deal.  Often we grumble and complain about our government works even while realizing it's the best there is.  There IS no Utopia.  Moreover people expect the BEST and when that doesn't come to fruition, then the complaints get louder and louder and then others within our community do act and change things. 

 

I think what many take for granted is they hold in their hands the very influence to change the things they find wanting, or at the very least, the power to voice their displeasure over the matter. 

 

America is about many things to many different people.  America is a vast land providing the opportunities to make a life, whether good or bad or even if it's just scratching by.  We have the freedom to work hard or not.  We have the freedom of striving to be great or mediocre or less.  We can choose to be who we will.  It all comes down to choice.  We are allowed to choose. 

 

Consider this, many complain over the simplest issues over cable tv or satellite rates, phone bills, gas bills, tax bill, or electricity.  What many don't realize is that throughout the rest of the world that TOILET paper is a luxury for many and some will never have even that.  Others have no food, not complaints about the 'fat content' at the fast food restaurants they love to hate.  Many in the world don't whine about their electric bill because the air conditioning or their dryers have run for longer than they wish to pay for this month because many in the world don't even have electricity; they would be enthralled if they had electric lights. 

 

We grumble how our kids have it soft, how our kids have no respect, how the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket—guess what?  Our parents, and their parents, and their parents thought the same thing.  In many ways our lives have gotten tougher due to crime and remonstrations over how life should be down to how we ought to change a diaper or even give birth, at the same time we've implemented avenues that ease nearly everything we do to a point we take it all for granted.  And we Americans do take much for granted.

 

That caught me up a bit short a week or two ago.

 

That's when I made the decision not to wimp out and TO make that trip that many consider now mundane and trite, that many after a huge pool/barbecue would be too inebriated to test their skills behind the wheel (hopefully).

 

Friday the 4th dawned with a humid heat that became more sullen as the sun wandered towards its peak.  I took care to keep my child busy and at my side.  We did the weekly shopping together and bought special items for the evening.  Oh, there was laundry to be done and I had her help me at the clothesline—it was great clothes-drying weather.  Dinner WAS a cheat just because it was too hot to cook and hubby didn't get off until late so I wouldn't have him grill anything.  It was an All-American frozen pizza night. 

 

I had already made arrangements for my niece and her hubby and their newborn to meet us at my sister's house where I'd pick up my other niece and her 5 year old daughter and my sister.  I had brought a cooler filled with iced sodas, sparklers for the kiddies, wet & dry wash clothes in baggies (just in case), Off spray for the bugs, and a couple of large bags of peanuts in the shell for us to eat and be messy with. 

 

There had been much discussion on where we should park to get the best view.  My initial choice had been the country road just behind the Target store where the display was to be held—across the highway from that store was an enormous Wal*mart & Sam' Club where many would view it from.  I didn't want to go there.  However hubby had offered the idea of the Centre's parking lot about a mile away to view it from.  Nephew-in-law had a similar suggestion.  My sister had a entire different venue to offer but the towering trees close up killed that idea early on. 

 

As a troop, we left with the niece/nephew/newborn trailing us.  We killed my sister's suggested spot right from the start.  Those trees were too close and too tall—we turned down the country road I had thought of to find it already congested and well trafficked—not good for the little ones, so we turned and went to the one spot we knew would work and arrived at 8:30PM, nearly an hour before the festivities.    We had a clear view of what was to come.  We parked in the Sears Automotive parking lot—adjacent to the Centre.  It was great because until the last minute most didn't find their way there and other friends found us—we had a small group of about 15 taking up 5 spaces.  I put down the tailgate of the truck—and many perched there—we spread a blanket upon the grassy median beside the truck.  Sodas were broken out the soothe the parched throats.  Sparklers were lighted to keep the tots fancy alive.  Then the peanuts began to be shelled just for the fun of it. 

 

We laughed, we talked, and we waited until 9:20PM—it began with a bang.  Other than little Dylan, who isn't quite old enough to realize the colors yet at less than 2 months of age, little Lexie Nicole at 5 years was fascinated, Kennedy Rose at 2 laughed and cried, and even Erin at 12 nearly cooed over the colors while trying to remain 'cool'. 

 

While the show only lasted about 25 minutes, the lead up to it all was wonderful.  The sultry heat, the lightning bugs, the peanuts, the laughter, the general camaraderie that not just our family shared but that flowed all around us from all the other families the joined in to celebrate the birthday of our country and all it stands for.  

 

I felt proud to be there with my family and all my fellows standing in awe not just over the pretty displays but what they stood for.  Two hundred and twenty seven years ago we became a country—about freedom.

 

After I dropped off my sister and her daughter and granddaughter at their home, Erin asked me why we had fireworks on the 4th.  She caught me off-guard as she often does as I drove into the quiet of the night through the sleepy countryside.  After a moment's quiet, I was quite able to answer her.

 

The Star Spangled Banner

by Francis Scott Key

 

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,

What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep

Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,

In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:

'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion

A home and a country should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov'd homes and the war's desolation;

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land

Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us as a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

 

 

"the bomb's bursting in air . . .gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there."

 

Right there is what it's all about.  This isn't about pool parties or barbecues with family and friends.  This is all about the freedoms we've deigned to honor and bestow upon ourselves as a country and as a people.

 

I wish all had it.

 

Somehow my singing, as always, was a bit off-key, but through it all, I think my daughter managed to hear the lesson well enough as we rolled through the night and into the drive.

 

I got a big hug and a 'thank you' and a curious look from her that bespoke that she now had something further to consider than just water slides and sparklers and the watermelon I'll split tomorrow.

 

I can only hope your day was met with even the small success I felt mine was.

 

Revel In Freedom

 



 

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