My 4th of July

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“I know it was super hot and muggy in that cramped, stifling room in Philadelphia, but I am so glad the founding fathers pounded out the Declaration of Independence in the summer, ya know what I mean?”

I said this to my husband last night as we strolled around a hopping neighborhood block party with our children, watermelon slice in one hand, homemade root beer in the other, a cotton candy machine whirring in the distance. I don’t think this holiday would be nearly as much fun if those men had deliberated well into January.

Last night music was blaring from off of someone’s porch, older kids were turning into pyromaniacs in the taped-off square at the end of the cul-de-sac, and the evening breeze felt so warm it would’ve felt exotic, except for the fact we were celebrating the birthday of our own home, sweet home.

There’s something about needing to celebrate the 4th of July in a big, fantastic way that makes otherwise law abiding, straight arrow citizens drive hours out to the Indian Reservation (how’s that for irony?) to buy thousands of dollars worth of illegal fireworks (you know, the big ones.) just so they can put on one heck of a show for the entire neighborhood down in the retention basin, complete with 5 gallon drums of rocky road ice cream, and hope no one calls the cops. (No one called. The rocky road was delicious. The show, amazing.)

Both my husband and I love to travel and have been fortunate enough to be able to do so. Every time we play one of those party games where you have to write down something interesting about yourself nobody else knows about, I jot down, “I have eaten at a McDonald’s in one dozen different countries.” (Well, now I’ll have to think of something else…)

I love ethnic cuisine, and I enjoy traipsing to local haunts when I travel, but there is something about being away from the red, white, and blue that makes me appreciate, nay, even miss the golden arches. (And this is from someone who has never eaten a McDonald’s hamburger in her own hometown.) There’s nothing quite like air conditioning, ordering in English, and hearing ice clink in my drink to cure a touch of homesickness.

There is something about that stern airport employee who copiously looks over my passport with  a jeweler’s loupe and a flashlight at the end of a long trip, then finally breaks his unflinching poker face with a wide, “Welcome home!” that makes me tear up, every time.

I get misty singing the national anthem at ballparks. I get emotional watching my little cub scout post the colors at pack meetings. In fact, I can’t watch a fireworks display without thinking about Francis Scott Key aboard that British ship 200 years ago and beholding that “star-spangled banner” after the smoke had cleared, then shouting the good news down to his cohorts who did not get a window seat there in the ship’s hold.

I dream about what America must look like from space on the fourth of July, what with all those fireworks booming and bounding across the nation, from sea to shining sea, chasing the setting sun.

It is the land of the free, the home of the brave, and after an evening of fireworks, rocky road and root beer I don’t feel homesick at all. In fact, just the opposite. And that’s a good thing, because after all I gobbled down last night, a McDonald’s hamburger is the last thing I need.

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