Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, America!

The United States of America is 235 years old today--Happy Birthday, America! The finale tonight in Washington, DC is to include 3,000 fireworks in 17 minutes!

When I was young, I couldn't wait for the sun to go down on the Fourth of July. My mom would pack us up and walk us to the nearest park no matter where we lived. I remember walking too fast for my mother's comfort and her fear that my sister and I would get lost in the heavy crowds. Every boom and grouping of shooting stars illuminating the dark skies made my pulse race and every combination was better than the last one. My sister and I would yell out our favorites as the lights above us shimmered and shone on practically every surface around us, to include my eyeglasses. And then, the much-anticipated finale! It doesn't get much better than that.

In my 20's, I worked at the Pentagon and enjoyed the concerts and shenanigans near the Washington Monument with friends and my younger sister. Early on the 4th, we'd staked our claim to a little plot of land on the National Mall with a blanket and a cooler full of alcoholic drinks (those days are over!), listening to band after band and getting way too much sun. The finale in Washington, DC was always spectacular and the party afterward was always fun. I have great memories of meeting wonderful people from all over the United States and abroad.

As a young mother living in the Washington DC area, I did the same thing with my kids--I packed up the car and off we went. Some years, we watched firework displays locally and other times, we headed to the Mall in front of the Washington Monument. One year, we sat beneath the Iwo Jima Memorial along the Potomac River. We never missed the displays until we moved to Europe as a young military family in 1993. While living in Europe, we enjoyed annual 4th of July American community picnics, but there were no fireworks in Vienna, Austria nor Brussels, Belgium as there were no US bases near us. We ended up living in Belgium and France for 13 years and I missed those firework displays.

When my kids left for college in the US, I returned to the States as a newly-separated woman. I rented a house on a hill in Frederick, MD where my kids and I watched the fireworks from lawn chairs on our front yard. We watched them together for a couple of years while they were in college until they graduated and moved out on their own. Soon, they had their own friends to watch the fireworks with and I made new friends and reconnected with old friends.

As a single mother of adult children not living at home (shouldn't that be--SMACNLAH?), I've joined new and old friends at firework displays on the shores of Lake Anna in southern Virginia, along the Potomac River in West Virginia, and on a beautiful sailboat in Plymouth Harbor in Massachusetts which was awesome! One year, I was headed to dinner with my kids in Washington, DC a few days before the 4th and I saw fireworks from Memorial Bridge. I stopped my car and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular display by myself. Last year, friends and I watched the fireworks from our river place. I was impressed by our river community, they put on a super display.

Tonight, I have no plans. For the first time, I have no plans to watch the fireworks of the Fourth of July. My city isn't hosting fireworks because of a shooting last year involving a child. I'm a bit afraid of joining the huge crowds in Washington, DC in light of the massacre at the Boston Marathon and boy, does the unrest in Egypt and Syria worry me. We're living in a different world today.

There will be no coolers or backpacks allowed in firework locations in Washington, DC and everyone will be searched. It saddens me that we've lost a bit of innocence, but all the precautions are necessary. How safe can we really be in public places? Very, very safe, I hope and pray. I pray for my children, family and friends wherever they are tonight. But, we can't allow fear to grip us and cause us to stay hunkered down. That's not who we are.

So maybe I'll call my friend and take a little ride tonight. She grew up in my adopted city and I bet she knows all the best places to view fireworks. It's just not the same watching the fireworks on TV :)

Peace, love and safety to you and yours.
Ellie








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