How many holidays do you remember?
I know, there’s the typical Christmases where you got that one perfect toy…when Santa brought you “The Little Professor” because you saw it on TV without realizing it was really a calculator that didn’t give you the answers. You played with it anyway, constantly, even after the red cover on the screen broke off and you saw how the professor worked. You played with it, even then, marveling at how one little piece of red plastic made the whole thing change so much.
But how many holidays beyond those are memorable?
The 4th of July was almost like Christmas in my house when I was growing up. This wasn’t because of the fireworks or the picnics or the day off. This was because, without a doubt, it was a celebration in my house.
I’m from an immigrant family. I won’t detail the full story, it’s not mine to tell, but America, whether you know it, believe it, or understand it, is as close to the most freedom you’ll get. Go to any country…see Egypt today, after an ouster of their president. Look at Russia. Go to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Japan, China, Korea . . . I’m not saying we’re the model for every country because we cannot be that. But if you come to these lands after being in an oppressive regime your whole life, being discriminated against due to your religion or your race, it’s the closest you’ll get to Nirvana.
I grew up where the 4th was an event. When I was really little my father held a picnic for all his employees and their families. We didn’t make a lot of money and our house – while I loved it, for sure – was old and ramshackle. We didn’t care we had the picnic, played games, tossed the football around.
…and there were fireworks. Lots, and lots, and lots of fireworks. This wasn’t our bugging my parents on a daily basis for them and running around asking . . . my Dad went and bought them himself. We have Super8 films of my brother and I setting them off. When we got older we went to South Dakota and bought even bigger fireworks. Every year our celebration got bigger, even if it was just the five of us.
This year my kids are there and even though we have new technology, some of the same fireworks I grew up with were sent, via text messaged picture, to me from my kids. They had little tanks that shot out sparks. They had non-firework poppers . . . and by the end of the evening they were shooting off Roman Candles to celebrate the 4th. They closed by watching the massive fireworks show 1/2 mile away at the city’s Country Club – something they can see from the back yard.
The 4th of July may very well be the celebration of the creation of our country. Still…it’s also a celebration of what we take for granted every day. I know it sounds cheesy and silly, but leave the country…just go a little ways away from where you live and you’ll see that the things you had taken for granted are now far more special. After being interrogated in the Middle East just on my security check out of the country 11 years ago I saw what freedom was. It’s not trust, we can’t be so naive to think that every person coming in and out has no nefarious thoughts. Still, the idea that you can have due process, just cause for stopping someone, that’s important. We are fortunate in that, while the country’s wealth and some governmental policies may agitate some people around the world, the freedom and joy people get from coming here is enough to rally those who live here – including those whom this country has adopted as her own – around the freedom to stop those who fight against it and to protect the rights and freedoms we have. From soldiers who volunteer to fight to sons and daughters who put packages together to send to those soldiers, to the people who gather funds to help those who live here and overseas that don’t have enough to survive.
The fourth of July, a celebration whose noise and bombastic flourishes explode outside during my writing of this post, is more than a day off. I knew this because my family treated this day with respect and celebration, a day it deserves. We live in a vast country, filled with monumental wonders.
Celebrate those, not just today, but every day. They’re worth it.