Proud to be an American
"If you're reading this, my momma's sittin there. Looks like I only got a one way ticket over here.
Sure wish I could give you one more kiss. And war was just a game we played when we were kids..."
Ahhhhh…the hazy lazy days of summer are upon us and we’ve all taken a step back from our busy lives, hectic schedules and are chillin just a little bit more than usual. With the onset of these laid back summer days we are also opening up the door to arguably one of the most celebrated holidays of the year - the 4th of July! I love Independence Day and it has been a day our family has celebrated with gusto for as long as I can remember.
All of that being said - what are we really celebrating? What are we honoring, remembering, cherishing on this day? Many people in the midst of their partying forget about what the significance of the day really is. And how important it is. And how VITAL it is - especially in the challenging times our country and Americans have faced in the past decades - to stop and remember our country. What we have and so readily take for granted.
A little shameful…maybe. I am just as guilty as the next person of taking all of this for granted, as something that I know is there but I don’t really SEE IT WITH MY EYES. So I’m going to give us all a quick boot in the backside and wake us up to take a moment and appreciate. And remember our country this July 4, 2017.
What exactly is Independence Day?
Quick history here so just grin and bear it. Independence Day, or better known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday that celebrates the final approval and publication of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Why is this important? (and, fun fact, I did not really know this) This Declaration was so important because it signified our independence from Great Britain. And this independence that we fought so valiantly for, that independence is what we celebrate. America’s birth day.
I read that John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. In this letter he described how Independence Day would be celebrated, with “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations”. My kind of party. And that is exactly how many of us embrace the Fourth of July. Thank you John Adams!
Independence as Americans
Why oh why was this independence so important? Well, we had this little ole disagreement with Great Britain because GB (Great Britain) was being a bit bossy with her Thirteen Colonies. See, the Colonies didn’t appreciate being told where they could or could not live, who they could and couldn’t trade with and man, they did NOT like being hit with all those high taxes. So the patriots had themselves a little tea party right down the street from me in Boston. And it wasn’t the type of tea party with the pretty little cookies and sandwiches. From all of this mess of the American Revolutionary War came not just the Declaration of Independence but also the creation of a new Constitution of the United States.
Lots of really vague, kind of interesting info. Mull that over for a minute. You had a group of people that essentially rose together, came together, stayed together and fought as one for their INDEPENDENCE. They chose the greater good of the community and fought for that good as one entity. That independence that they sought is what we so easily forget and take for granted today.
Independence at Home
Why oh why is this independence so important? Look at your own home. Your own family. It is the nature of the beast as we grow (i.e. as the colonies began to grow and expand) that we begin to fight for our independence. From the bonds and the rules that where they once provided guidance are now stifling our growth. As parents (Great Britain) our natural instinct is to say NO and grab and hold on tight. Which we do and we go to war with our independence seeking children. Until their 18th birthday (you seeing the connection??) And then that independence that they have worked so hard for is theoretically theirs.
Independence in My World
I see both sides of this coin. I have what I would consider a pretty patriotic spirit. I love the National Anthem and feel such a sense of pride and honor when it is sung. I have a sense of gratitude for those that have lost their lives and who have fought for our freedoms - it’s a cause that hits close to my heart. Because I truly believe there is no greater sacrifice than that of giving of yourself. No greater nobility than putting others before yourself. No greater honor than saying I will put my life on the line in order to fight to make life better for you and yours. As always, to those that have served, those that are currently serving and to those that have lost family members in the pursuit of our freedoms, I thank you.
And my Lex just turned 18. And I set her free. Of course I am still here to remind her that unless she is paying rent she is a guest in my house and I-don’t-care-I want-your-bed-made but for all intensive purposes she’s off and running. An internship in Boston this summer means she puts her own self on the train, catches the shuttle and is INDEPENDENT. And, man, it is so hard. Because just yesterday she was a smiling 18 month old telling me red was green and vice versa.
Remembering our Country
We’ve established how this battle for our (as Americans) and our (as individuals) is so alike and important. And we’ve also established that as Americans we like to party and celebrate that birth day and that birthday. But what do we really do to remember and honor our country? Isn’t that our obligation as Americans to find a way to say “Thank you!” To pass that sense of awareness for our ‘haves’ down to future generations? And if you don’t do anything - what CAN you do to remember her? I have some traditional thoughts on this as well as some more unconventional ways that hopefully will enlighten a few of us to take a moment and pause this upcoming holiday.
1. Bring out Old Glory.
Shake off the dust, unfold her gently and get that flag flying high! One of the most recognized symbols of the United States of America and all that we have, fought for and strive to be is the flag. Hang your flag from a flag pole attached to the house or structure on the property and show your patriotic spirit this Fourth of July.
2. Attend a parade.
Again, we are celebrating! If your city or town doesn’t host a parade this Independence Day, google it and find somewhere nearby that does. It’s a great way to not only connect with other Americans and members of the community but also who doesn’t love a parade!!!! Floats, fire trucks, the cute little guys with the cone shaped hats in the little cars, being pelted with tootsie rolls…How AMERICAN is that! Find a parade. Go.
3. Go see the fireworks.
My dogs love this part of the Fourth. NOT! Buy your own if it’s legal or don’t get caught if it’s not. Check out the local newspaper and find out who is having fireworks and ask on social media where is the best place to go view them. With thousands of other people. And mosquitos. Or watch them on tv. But fireworks are an essential and beautiful expression of America’s birthday.
4. Throw a picnic, barbecue, cookout.
Get your family and friends together, potluck your favorite dishes, throw on some tunes and pull out the Spike Ball and horseshoes and have yourself a good old fashioned day of FUN. There truly is no better way to celebrate the holiday than with those that you cherish most and if you can make it happen, do it.
5. Attend a local concert.
Again, so many towns and cities have celebrations over the course of the Fourth of July holiday weekend or on the day itself. We have this little thing (eye roll) in Boston where the Boston Pops play a free concert on the esplanade. Yawn… Just watching some of the most amazing musicians in the world with 300,000 of my closest friends. But find some music, grab your blanket, pack a cooler and go enjoy some tunes!
1. Go visit some of our national memorials.
This is an ideal time to take a road trip (or a plane trip) and go see some of the memorials and iconic figures that help us to relate to our individual and American history. From the Lincoln Memorial to the Statue of Liberty, there are countless amazing and extraordinary places to visit that will hopefully give you a moment to pause and just appreciate how great life is as an American. I call front seat!
2. Say Thank You.
Hear me out. This can be done in countless ways. You are certain to see someone in uniform this weekend. Whether it’s at a parade, in Walmart, in a restaurant. Take a moment out of your day and thank them for their service. Because without the bravery of those that stood up and fought for the future of all of us, we would not have what we have as Americans. Write a letter to a service man or woman or a veteran, make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project or other organization, do something in some way of giving thanks.
What the heck does that mean? I mean pause and reflect. Reflect on your own life. What you have. What you are grateful for. Look at your children and where they are going in their life and how they march bravely ahead with their independence, not looking back. Take a moment and appreciate the sacrifices of your elders, your spouse, your neighbor. Reflect on what you are taking advantage of in your life, where you can truly simplify, finding gratitude in the simplicity of day to day.
4. Sing the Star-Spangled Banner.
There are many that don’t sing the National Anthem and even fewer children that know the words to the National Anthem. Or it’s significance. Take an hour, do it over coffee and donuts and listen to the National Anthem. Read to them, help them understand what it means. Struggle. War. Pain. All in the quest for Freedom. Progress. Patriotism. Creation of a Nation. It’s a beautiful thing.
5. Practice tolerance.
There are so many of us at a crossroads in our country. Happy with this. Not happy with that. Accusations. Declarations. Hurt. Hate. Intolerance. Make an effort to practice tolerance. When immigrants came here from all over the world it was because this was the land of OPPORTUNITY. Try not to judge. Try not to assume. Try not to go forth with the attitude that you know it all. Be tolerant of others. Be accepting of them as individuals. Tolerance. It’s so easy to ask for but at times so hard to implement.
Remembering our country in my world
As I said earlier, I do love the Fourth of July. For years as a family we would load up the family vehicles and head up to Seeley Lake. Depending on the year and the age of all the kids, the celebrations would vary somewhat but there was always the parade through the downtown of Seeley (about the length of two city blocks), a flurry of red, white and blue and good old fashioned sitting on the tailgate of the truck and throwing back of couple of cold beers. Good times.
Fast forward to now and things are a little different. I will be probably hanging at home with the goslings, waiting for an invite somewhere (hint, hint) and doing something super exciting like laundry. My Rob will be in Boston, protecting the citizens from harm and doing his job. So where it has and always will be a family holiday in my eyes, life has a way of showing you that you are just along for the ride and compromise is key. So we compromise and make it work. But I am available that day. Jus sayin…
And we have not been to Seeley in two years and then two years before that. Four years ago when we went my nephew Colton was there too. And it was great. And there were so many memories, pictures, videos that I can still bring up from that day. And the rest of my family went last Fourth of July and it just wasn’t the same. So this year, for the first time in as long as I can remember, none of us are going to Seeley on the Fourth of July. And that is okay. And right. Because some traditions are okay to be broken.
A little bit off the beaten track but essential none the less to remembering who we are and what we have. Whether you consider yourself patriotic or its simply a holiday that garners you some overtime, please take a moment and just reflect on your haves. This day is a beautiful day, a gift and giving thanks for those freedoms, those rights that you exercise is a lesson that future generations can sink their teeth into and use it to do some good.
Be safe. Have fun. Hug those you love tight. Celebrate our independence and your independence. Remember our country!
"And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air. Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave. O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."