In a few short days it will be America’s birthday. She will be 240 years old.
The Fourth of July is just one of those days that gets seared into your memory. I can smell charcoal and hamburger buns just thinking about it. I remember, as a little girl, walking next to my father, behind my mother and brother, down the middle of the main street in town. It had been coned off for the crowds as everyone in town funneled towards the river to lay out blankets and line the curb to watch the fireworks. It was hot and I felt heavy in the heat. We stopped to get Italian ice at little mom and pop shop and my brother threw a fit because all they had left was lemon. I scraped little bits of asphalt under my sandal, watching the tears trickle down his freckles, holding the thin paper cone in my hand. My mom recognized another mom and waved, and she and her husband waved back, hand in hand, their son and daughter wearing matching white t shirts with a American flag stamped on the front.
The Fourth is always full of family and neighbors and strangers. Hot pavement. Questionable potato salad. Tank tops and tan shoulders. Diced up watermelon and coolers stuffed with ice and silver beer cans. Whether I am 6 or 26 the hour before the fireworks go off is always spent listening to the hum of the people around me. Those stupid light up necklaces that every kid begs their parent to buy them.
At 6 I wasn’t worried about war or terrorist attacks or elections, but at 26, with two young children, I worry. I worry often and I wonder what the future of our country looks like for them. I try to imagine what my little boys will remember. What their memories will be.
I hope, in the weeks, and months, and years ahead of us, amongst all the uncertainty and stress, pinned under the weight of our future, that we remember the cool summer night of July 4th. We remember the jammed lines of traffic we all not so patiently sat in at the fireworks show. Or that cake at least one lady on the street makes, made up like the flag with berries and cool whip. The pitchers of sweet tea and lemonade.
While the news spews off chaos and conflict this July Fourth, look around you. Smushing marshmallows between graham crackers and sparklers at dusk are some of the basics that make up this country. The little things that don’t come to mind when the big questions are asked, like “What does it mean to be an American?”
When the future is overwhelming, crushing, even, look to the basics. Waking up on a Sunday morning to a hot cup of coffee, making eggs and bacon as my husband and boys fill up the kitchen bellowing and snickering all before 8 o’clock. Walking into the gym to be greeted by good mornings and smiles and chitchat. Loading up heavy barbells with friends. Pushing ourselves and one another to be better; to be great. This is our community. This is what we are made of.