Thursday, July 2, 2009

My most treasured holiday

{photos by Ryan Burke}

One of my former bosses asked everyone what their most treasured holiday was for scheduling purposes. Everyone jumped on Thanksgiving and Christmas. But me? Fourth of July, all the way. Why?

1) They do not make movies about dysfunctional families gathering on the Fourth of July. The Fourth of July takes everything that's good about the other holidays (food, friends) and removes the bad stuff (pressure, stress, winter weather).

2) FIREWORKS. Need I say more? I still remember the first time I fell in love with sparklers, at a 4th of July BBQ when we first moved to Wise. Someone gave me my own box and I was devastated when I had exhausted all its contents.

3) BBQ! Hot dogs! Burgers! Watermelon! Beer! Sno Cones! Kettle Corn! Funnel Cakes! ALL MY FAVORITE FOODS!

4) Flexibility. Fourth of July is a holiday that gives itself over to spontaneity. I see no need for tradition at the Fourth of July. In fact, I've made an effort to celebrate in different places every year. 

Growing up, Fourth of July usually meant swimming at Jamie's house and going to Norton to watch the fireworks. When we got older, it meant lying on our backs at Bullett Park in Big Stone Gap. 

Some summers, it meant watching them light up the Hudson River below FDR drive in NY. Sometimes it meant sitting dockside by the lake in Matawan, N.J. There was the year we watched in Yorktown, where the Revolutionary War was won. And the year, shown above, when Ryan and I ventured to downtown Lexington, Va. where we watched fireworks from the lawn of VMI, surrounded by hot air balloons.

And the most memorable: my family sandwiched between 2,000 other revelers, watching the fireworks explode behind the Washington Memorial while Ray Charles sang "America the Beautiful." 

5) I love America. I really, really do. Maybe not in a Toby Keith way, or a Bill O'Reilly way. I love it for being it: screwed up, proud, often wrong but almost always optimistic, even naively so. America is like that bumbling uncle who sometimes gets lost but refuses to admit it. He'll get there eventually; it just might take a little longer. 

I love America for its imperfections and for its irrational desire to reach perfection. What other country has tried so incredibly hard to push itself to grow? In a little over 200 years, we've cleared hurdles older countries haven't approached because we feel like we should. Because we were imagined as a more perfect nation. The kind of place where people can be who they are. I love that I have friends from all walks of life, all types of backgrounds with different opinions. What a blessing! Ain't it grand?

So this year I'm heading back to Staunton, where Ashleigh and I will join the residents at Gypsy Hill Park for small-town celebration and fireworks at the end. I hope you enjoy the day and in between sips of beer and gnaws on corn on the cob, consider how great it is that a group of men gathered in Philadelphia, signed a piece of paper and through some crazy luck, managed to found this country. 


Amanda said...

I usually end up doing nothing much for July 4th, but I still have a generic good feeling about the whole thing.


Kate said...

I really am a huge fan of the 4th as well, but my favorite holiday is Halloween, all the way :-)

greenpaper said...

aw amber, i love this post. and i miss fourth of july on the east coast. there are no big green lawns here or anything. fireworks are still nice but it's not the same atmosphere.

mark said...


also. i am so proud of you for cooking and things now!

who knew?

:D luck with future cake endeavors.

<3 m

gina-mom said...

i, as you know, am not particularly patriotic despite being related to josiah bartlett... but this essay brought a proud tear to my eye... it is an incredible country with an incredible history