When I was a little girl, the 4th of July in the U.S. was a day for parades, picnics, and fireworks (safely). We celebrated joyously! Our family would go sit on the lawn of the company where my father worked and we would watch the fireworks from the country club across the street.
Of course, as children, we set off limited fireworks, always supervised. And the caveat of an older aunt who as a toddler had the collar of her dress catch on fire when she picked up a supposedly dud firework that her brother had shot off—and then having her brother rescue her before she was more than merely singed, with a thin scar around her neck she carried through her adult years—was our own personal family fireworks cautionary tale. So we mostly did the tame snakes, pops, and some sparklers– with my father supervising and setting off the more spectacular rotating wheel or lotus flower type firework displays, for safety reasons.
One year when I was about ten years old, my very tall and tallest cousin–who lived out of state and half the country away from us–came to visit us on the 4th of July. And sadly, it was the only time we ever met him because he traveled a lot for business. He arrived at our home in a very small sports car. Then somehow, he peeled—or extruded, Ha!– himself out of his little sports car with a friendly grin and four large fireworks rockets in his hand. He made an instant and favorable impression on us kids.
Then during high school and college, the neighborhood friends group of ours would go to one of our town’s parks fireworks displays after a picnic dinner at someone’s home. Lying on our backs on the bank of the park’s lake with the fireworks display overhead amidst the canopy of stars was great fun and gorgeous. We may have gotten grass stains on our clothes, but the memories were worth it.
Then after my hubby and I were married in our late twenties, we would find spots outside of town where he took time elapsed panorama shots of the four or five large parks and country club fireworks displays that could be seen. Though our first home was on the rise of a hill, and amazingly from our raised backyard deck, we could see the fireworks displays from one of the parks clear across town. Now that’s convenient. Ha!
A few years later, my hubby and I initiated a tradition of annually visiting the small town celebrations and flea markets in the area, marveling at the cheap treasures to be found there. Nothing fancy, just fun–a small pocket folding fan with a flower pattern on it, blue depression era glass, a safety pin beaded flag pin, model train stuff, and then a whole litany of home made linens and crocheted items.
The last thing I bought from that small town 4th of July flea market, that is an annual tradition in our area, was a beautifully crocheted lacey coaster/doily by a grandmotherly looking woman making them before our eyes. The doily (at right) is made of a thin ecru colored thread in an intricately beautiful design of thousands of crochet stiches, and it is just 4.5 inches across. It was really too pretty to set a glass or glass paperweight and such upon, so I have the lacey doily in with my jewelry things.
In later years—especially when the heat index was in the 90’s—we would stay home and watch the fireworks and musical accompaniment on tv from the Capital 4th shows:
Having a father who served in WWII—one who was too young to see combat (thankfully), so he was in a unit that designed and rebuilt roadways and bridges that had been destroyed in the areas where they were deployed—I have always felt a sense of gratefulness for all who have imagined and toiled and served and built up our nation from its inception—and that includes women, too. And yes, one branch of our family has been around long enough to have served in the American Revolutionary War ( 1775 – 1783). I had a female cousin who did the DAR research on our ancestors—somewhere of which I have a copy of all the records. Geneology is fascinating stuff!
But for me personally, the 4th of July is not a military tribute or remembrance. It is the anniversary of our nation’s founding and the principles of people coming together to build a new nation. And former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich does a great up job of reminding us of that:
And yet, the the simplicity of remembering that the U.S. or any nation or country, is more than its government or leaders. A nation is an embodiment of its people—diverse, talented, inventive, compassionate, inclusive, and working together for the common good of all, etc. Something to continue to strive for.
So I will close with the words of Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address presented on another long ago 4th of July, as charmingly shared more recently by children in the film “Kindergarten Cop”:
I hope that you have a wonderful and safe (from fireworks) 4th of July!