I’m not a person with a ton of Independence Day traditions. I’ve always done something to mark the holiday, but I have almost always found that my plans for the Fourth of July have come together at the last minute (if they come together at all).
Even so, I have so often been fortunate to celebrate the day with family and friends, whether hanging out at my Dad’s, being at the beach, going to watch fireworks, pulling over on a bridge at the GA/SC line to watch the fireworks over the river, chasing a terrified dog down a dark street lined by trees full of fireflies, or, most recently, flying home with my boys to be with our family in the States. I have varied and bountiful memories of July 4th, and all of them, woven together, make up my very loose idea of Independence Day traditions.
Being away from home, we wanted to do something to mark the holiday, especially because, since the boys are beginning to be old enough to understand such things, we want them to have some idea about the Fourth of July. Fireworks aren’t a possibility, and neither did we find any convenient displays of American flags or red, white and blue anything. We settled for celebrating with a version of a cookout (made indoors): hot dogs (served in buns, American style, with ketchup and French’s mustard), Cheetos, potato chips, watermelon, lemonade and ice cream. (The boys are not interested in eating hot dogs in buns. I fear we will have a lot of work to do in the realm of repatriation when we move home.) It was really nice, and it did feel appropriately festive.
I don’t feel lonely or forlorn at being away from home on this day. But I do feel very aware of my American-ness. Like any imperfect family (and all of them are), for all of our collective national dysfunction, I am proud to be a part of it. The ideals on which my country was founded are wise, and the spirit of my fellow Americans is strong. We are neighbors, we are family, we are a community, and I am proud to be a part of that. And although I’m not exactly sad, I do miss it. Today, on a day that celebrates my nation and my people, I am not among them, but my heart is home.