The 4th of July is my favorite holiday. I’m sure you don’t hear (read) that very often, but for me, it’s true. I love how it brings people together (and by people, obviously I mean us Americans). It’s the one day out of the year that we can put aside our differences- political, personal, et al- and enjoy the day for what it is; a celebration of freedom and of our country.
But that’s not even the best part.
My favorite is the lack of obligations that goes along with it. You see, around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I feel compelled to spend time with family, and by family, I mean people that I see once or twice a year on, wouldn’t you know it, Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no issue spending time with my family; for the most part, I enjoy their company. But what if I wanted to spend time with friends instead- not that I have any… Okay. One. My one friend. Or what if I just didn’t feel like making the 4 hour journey in holiday traffic?
Then I would be guilted by the flood of, ‘Missed you at Grandma’s,’ texts and the, ‘Aunt [Nosey] sends her love,’ message from mom the next day. I’m a people pleaser, so to you, these messages may not carry much weight, but to me, they are comments about how much of a shitty granddaughter/niece/cousin I am. With 4th of July, I can choose how I want to spend my time, and more importantly, who that time is spent with (or not), without the added pressure and shame of making the wrong choice.
But that’s not the only reason I adore the 4th of July.
[I haven’t always been so cynical…]
Even when I was younger, I always looked forward to the 4th. Growing up, my family hosted a 4th of July picnic. Back then, family and friends congregated at the same time, in the same place, to share in the day’s festivities. There was the typical outdoor barbecue food of hamburgers and hot dogs that filled the air, kiddie pools, super-soaker water gun fights, badminton, music blaring from the 1990’s boombox… We even had a neighbor drop by one year and offer pony rides with his trusted steed! Then, when it got dark, the kids where handed sparklers and we watched as the men shot off fireworks at the far end of the yard.
Since my dad was a rocket scientist, I thought that that was his job; shooting off fireworks, so I was beyond excited to see him in action. Plus, because of his knowledge of explosives, he knew the good ones to get, and not just that- he drove out of state to get them. We had the best show in town, bar none.
I also enjoy the 4th because to me, it still carries a hint of magic. When we’re kids, Thanksgiving was about… well giving thanks, but also about remembering the first meal the pilgrims and the ‘Indians’ had together. Sounds nice, right? But as we grow older, we’re taught what really happened between the pilgrims and the natives. Since the hypothetical wool has been lift, Thanksgiving has lost it’s magic.
Same with Christmas…
Now I know that Santa is real, but the fact that he doesn’t visit me anymore is kind of heartbreaking. I understand that there are children around the world that are in need and it’s his job to make them happy, but I still miss the days when he would stop by and take a bite out of the cookie I made just for him. Now, Christmas is all about spending time with family and exchanging gifts like socks and batteries, which is great, but there’s no more magic.
With July 4th, I always revert to being a kid again. I stare up at the night sky, ooing and ahhing after every colorful burst, I smile at every crackle and boom, and I can hardly contain my excitement when the finale begins. Some say that all firework shows are the same, but I disagree. They’re all amazingly different. I could never get enough.
It’s kind of funny how my favorite holiday is one of American patriotism and yet, I’m dating an Englishman. He’s a good sport about the holiday (when he’s not carrying on about treason…). This year, we began our holiday with what has become our tradition: driving out to Mountain Lake (a.k.a. one of the sets of Dirty Dancing) for fireworks.
Not many people can say that!
Due to a strange natural occurring phenomenon, the lake has all but dried up (that’s why there is a gazebo on stilts jetting out in the middle of a field), but that’s where they set off the fireworks now. It’s kind of surreal sitting adjacent to the famous cabin that Baby and her family ‘vacationed’ in.
Fella and I have made it a routine to arrive a couple hours early, find a strategically good parking spot for easy departure, stake out a piece of land to lay a blanket down, and play cards as we smoke cigars, waiting for the show to begin. While we were blissfully unaware of the world happening around us, lost in a riveting round of gin rummy, I was rudely snapped back into reality when some kid (10 maybe) who wasn’t paying attention, kicked a soda all over me. My hair, my clothes, the blanket, everything was soaked. I entered into an instant state of shock while Fella exclaimed, “Maybe watch where you’re going next time!” No big deal, right? It’s not like I dumped an entire soda on him…
Well this kid obviously didn’t know how to handle the situation. He instantly burst into tears and screamed for his father. The owner of this brat-child came over and offered apologies and began consoling his spawn as they distanced themselves from the scene. I proceeded to remove my hoodie and use it as a towel to dry off and spot-dry items that were in the splash zone (the blanket, the cards, my phone). By the time the fireworks started, I was cold, sticky, and not very happy, but once the first explosion rang through the valley, my spirits lifted and nothing else mattered.
Sunday, Fella made breakfast like he always does, and we took the pups to the dog park. After letting them run around, we dropped them at the house and headed to the county fair for some child-friendly gambling and farm animals. Oh! And cotton candy!
We spent Monday in my happy place; vegged out on the banks of a river that winds through the mountains. With mountains all around, the river is like an oasis; a jewel hidden amongst the peaks and trees. Once again, we laid out our towels and lit up some cigars. When we get hot, we took a swim. Once we’re cooled off, we laid back down and continued reading our summer picks. Not a bad way to spend a Monday.
Tuesday, the actual 4th of July, we went out to celebrate with American burgers and beers and headed out for more fireworks. We got on the road to drive into town and the downpour started. We figured we’d hang in the car until it passed, but we didn’t need to once we got there. No. The rain didn’t stop. We ended up parking next to an almost empty pavilion with picnic tables. Perfect!
You should know our routine by now… break out the cards and the smokes. The rain let up just before the show started. We got our fill of fireworks and headed home, happily content with our 4th of July holiday.