The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. There are flags flying everywhere you look. Plus, we get the day off from work. For those with pools, the day is spent bobbing and floating, the scent of sunscreen in the air mixing with the smokey but sublime scent of hot dogs, hamburgers and ribs on the grill. For those without pools, you still get the thrill of the grill, but it’s in shorter bursts as you dodge the 99 degree heat threatening to cook YOU.
My family has a traditional celebration on the 4th. We go to the Country Club (pronounced the way Thurston Howell III would say it). At the Club, we join about a million other party-goers at tables decorated in red, white and blue, feast on fried chicken and anything that stood still long enough to get grilled.
As dusk falls, our little party of 14 or so heads outside with the other 999,986 festively dressed guests to jockey for a position from which to watch the fireworks. Somehow, this always works out remarkably well for us. I credit my stepfather who can clear an area with the simple gesture of squinting and putting his hands on his hips, although I’m not sure he’s aware of his super power. I also give my husband credit. He can locate chairs and line a dozen up like nobody’s business. We end up at the top edge of the grass overlooking the golf course, yet conveniently close to the bar.
After being seated we train our eyes on the flares moving beyond the creek, where final preparations are underway. Around us, giggling, excited children chase each other, waving glow sticks and necklaces – like little miniature rave attendees.
In the past, there have been what I would call some dicey choices made with the music that accompanies the show. For YEARS they kept playing that country song by Martina McBride – Independence Day. I don’t know whose idea it was to adopt a song about a woman who burns down her house with her abusive husband in it (and herself), leaving her child an orphan – as a song celebrating our country’s freedom, but I hope to never meet them. Here’s the chorus:
Let freedom ring
Let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is the day of a reckoning
Let the weak be strong
Let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away
let the guilty pay
It’s Independence Day
Ugh. It always took a few patriotic songs after that before I could stop scowling and muttering to myself.
Lately, someone at the Club blessedly took that particular song off the play list. Now we have a medley that includes Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America,” the ever popular, if a bit tired, “Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood, “Born in America” by Bruce Springsteen, and if I’m not mistaken, “American Girl” by Tom Petty. It’s an interesting combination, to be sure.
The fireworks are fantastic. They burst directly over our heads, within reach of our fingertips. The 999,986 others disappear, and my family remains. When they play the National Anthem and everyone stands and sings while watching the last of the ghostly firework trails disappear in the night sky, I tear up. For a brief moment, across the country, I feel like we’re all on the same page.
But I know we’re not. I can tell, because SOMEWHERE, at a firework show near you, SOMEONE is playing THAT STUPID SONG.