Monday, July 7, 2014

Traditional Independence

Happy Independence Day!

I know, I know, it was actually three days ago, but since I'm currently blogging only once a week, that's what you get. And actually, this is coming on the heels of my own Independence Day celebration.

I firmly believe that one important element of the fabulous life is to establish traditions that are meaningful to you in some way. Whether it's the annual family reunion or always going out for burritos before a ball game or singing a certain carol every Christmas Eve, it's these little details that put the sparkle into life.

Of course, that could just be my Irish talking.

In my family, we have endless traditions, ranging from the small and lamentable (Mom's lime Jell-O with pineapple every Christmas), to the large and meaningful (annual trips to the Midwest to visit the extended family). One of my favorite traditions is our Independence Day celebration.

Every year, my hometown hosts their salute to local veterans on July 3rd (postponed this year until the 6th due to thunderstorms). Thousands of people from all over gather in the Community Park to share in music, food, and friendship, before ending the evening with fireworks. My mom makes sure to get there just as soon as the park opens to stake out her spot close to the water and away from the docks where some of the more obnoxious boaters rev their engines and overuse their air horns. We haul in picnic food, spread a blanket, and bask in the sunshine and the breeze off the harbor until it gets dark enough for the fireworks show, which usually rivals what you would see in major cities.

It's one of my favorite traditions, in a year filled with wonderful ones. I think it really speaks to me because it's very much a throwback to the Americana of our parents' generation. It's small town America at its finest, from the community band playing John Phillip Sousa marches to the funnel cake stand to the school buses shuttling people back to their cars in the parking lot of the community college.

As we sit on our blankets and nibble on broccoli salad and Wheat Thins (this year I provided a Strawberry Pretzel Salad, which was a staple at nearly every summer church potluck I attended as a kid. And yes, this was another desperate bid to use up the remainder of my strawberries, which are now frozen!), a steady stream of friends, acquaintances, and neighbors stop by to visit, and some even park their own camp chairs next to ours to continue catching up. Former teachers stop to see how we've grown into our lives, and former classmates pass by

with their families. Friends from my parents' church will stop by to joke around, and childhood friends come by to introduce their spouses and children.

By and large, the crowds are friendly and respectful, flags and glow sticks are enthusiastically waved by small hands, and the cacophony of "oohs" and "ahhs" serves as the soundtrack to the professional fireworks display shot off of the barge in the harbor.

It's one of my favorite times of the whole year, because it's a reminder of all of wonderful things about our country, which we're so inclined to forget the rest of the year when bombarded by talk of political scandals and government ineffectiveness. For that one evening of the year, it's about celebrating the American spirit, and the foundations of our country - family, community, and freedom.

What are your traditions, for this holiday or others, that make your life a little more fabulous?

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