As we see American flags waving in the breeze, firework stands popping up in parking lots everywhere, and start humming along with “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (even though we don’t know that’s what it’s called), we know that it’s time for The 4th of July, American Independence Day. This holiday has always left fond memories in my heart. Like me, everyone probably has many connections from childhood that they make with this holiday. So, let’s travel back in time for a moment and remember the best parts of Independence Day from the eyes of our youth.
Here are some 4th of July memories we all enjoy!
The Gatherings/Family Barbeques
The scents of hot dogs and hamburgers sail through the air. And most of the men stand around the grill laughing as they hold cans of Bud Light. Sounds of children running, squealing, giggling as they swing, jump on a trampoline, or splash in the pool. The women gab as they set out those beloved side dishes of summer. You know the ones, watermelon, potato salad, raw veggies, baked beans, and that dip with all the layers.
Whether it was a small group or the entire neighborhood, those cookouts were where it was at as a child. My personal favorite parts were “making suicides” (you know, mixing a minimum of 5 different available sodas until you weren’t really sure what you were drinking anymore), sneaking up on my parents and spraying them with a water gun, and talking to my Uncle Mike after he’d thrown back a few too many beers and would tell the best stories.
The Excitement of Staying Up Late
There were those select few times that your parents said you could still be up after dark. The 4th of July was always one. The best part of the night always came as the sun set. You would wait for the big show by chasing fireflies. And of course, you insisted you weren’t tired as you stayed upright from the sugar high of soda and sweets. Other personal perks for me included night swimming in my friend’s pool. As well sneaking away from the fire pit with a cute boy, hoping my mom didn’t discover us.
Whether it was a shirt from Old Navy or an adorable dress of red, white, and blue, you always looked amazing and were sure to show off your American pride for the big day of celebration. There were also always fun sunglasses, headbands with streamers or sparkles. And anything else that screamed USA that you could find to wear.
It Was The One Time You Were Trusted with Fire/Explosives
The excitement of running through the yard with sparklers always seemed to bring a thrill, spelling your name in the air as the stick continued to crackle and smoke. There was also the exhilaration of shooting bottle rockets (as long as you weren’t pointing them at your little brother), the horrendous odor from smoke bombs, and the uncontrollable giggles from watching your intoxicated uncle light fountains in the driveway. Any other time of year you were told not to play with matches or go anywhere near anything that sparked or popped, but every Independence Day the rules went out the window and playing with fire was fair game.
The best part of this holiday, though, is attending a major firework show. You’d load the wagon with blankets and snacks, rushing to get to the park early to find the best spot. You’d shout “oooh,” and “ahhh…” in sync with hundreds to thousands of others. You were mesmerized by the show of explosive, sizzling, radiant colors filling the night sky. The time would pass so quickly that the grand finale always caught you by surprise.
Thinking back to the wondrous sights, sounds, and smells of a day marked for celebrating all things America… It truly fills my face with pride and my heart with happiness. The last thing I remember, after each year of cookouts, laughter, and explosions in the sky, was always the same: that sweet feeling of sleepiness that would start to fill my body on the short journey home. I’d nod off to sleep, my father’s arms embracing me (a feeling so rare) as he’d carry me up to my bed. My dreams filled with sparkling lights and joy, my body reveling in the rest it so desperately needed.
May your 4th of July be filled with fire, friends, and filling foods and the time after consumed with a peaceful rest, all things we are lucky to have in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”