July 4th is one of my favorite holidays. As a matter of full disclosure, however, I must admit to being partial to Labor Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Martin Luther King Day and President’s Day. All provide a brief respite from the routine workday.
Okay, I love my job (which perplexes some people, but they don’t know the folks I work with), but an occasional day off offers time for introspection—and maybe a quick fishing trip.
July 4th comes in the summertime, an ideal opportunity to grill burgers and dogs; make homemade ice cream; spend a day at the lake, the beach, the pool; go fishing if you can find a spot not already occupied; and maybe take in a baseball game.
When we lived in Georgia, back in the last century, Pat and I hosted an annual fish fry for my immediate family. It took me nearly all year to catch enough fish to feed them. That was the easy part. Pat made the hush puppies, the coleslaw, potato salad, chocolate cake and mixed up the recipe for homemade ice cream. I did turn the churn handle and cook the fish. It was a fun day—for me at least.
I enjoyed the Fourth when I was kid, too. For one thing, that week was dad’s only vacation. The cotton mill closed for one week a year, so it was good to have him home all day every day. He took us fishing, mostly in the creek behind our house but sometimes in a nearby pond and once or twice to the river, a scary place with the ominous sound of big water rushing over rocks.
Sometimes we went on picnics and occasionally to the mountains. I recall several trips to Cherokee, where we visited the Cherokee Indian Reservation, bought trinkets and looked for bears.
Sometimes dad had projects—painting the house, fixing a car, repairing fences—and we got to help. That wasn’t all bad either.
On Independence Day we almost always made ice cream, ate watermelon, and played baseball across the road in my grandfather’s side yard. My dad and uncles played and occasionally some nearby neighbors would join us to even out the sides.
We spent quality time in the swimming hole, often with a dozen or more nearby residents who knew where the path was. It was a popular place—now, sadly, overgrown and likely polluted.
As soon as it got dark enough, we had fireworks—firecrackers, roman candles, sky rockets and buzz bombs. It was a festive day, one we anticipated as soon as school turned out in early June.
I still approach Independence Day with anticipation. We haven’t hosted a fish fry in years. We’ve moved; my family is scattered and I don’t fish nearly often enough. But years ago Pat and I started something of a tradition—watching A Capitol Fourth—on PBS. We love the music; we enjoy the patriotic fervor of the performers and the crowd on the National Mall; and we watch awestruck at the fireworks display executed in time with soul-stirring music. It is America celebrated.
As it should be. The Fourth of July, Independence Day, offers us an opportunity to reflect on what’s important—liberty, family, hope, and the sacrifices made more than 200 years ago, and continuing, to assure that our freedoms remain intact. Have a happy and safe, Fourth of July.