A Reason to Celebrate July 4th
The church across the street from my apartment is perpetually busy. One Sunday, as I was coming home from grocery shopping, there was a boat blocking the road, as the driver towing it tried to weave his way into the church’s parking lot. Then about a month ago, they sponsored a fair that was so popular that a park on the other side of the highway had to be commandeered for their use. You can understand then why, upon seeing signs advertising a music festival that was held a few weeks after that, I quickly arranged to be out of my place early.
And yet, in spite of the complaining I give voice to, while sharing these anecdotes to my friends, the truth is, truly admire the way these people love coming together– how much they seem to enjoy any excuse to celebrate.
I remember being like that; six years old, ice-cream dribbling down my chin. After all, who can be expected to exert the intense kind of concentration devouring an ice cream cone requires when, overhead, stars are blooming into Fourth of July fireworks? It was such a simple moment, and yet, it stands out to me, as bright as that finale did against the sky’s blackness.
So do Thanksgivings, with my great-uncle Don, now deceased, telling us old war stories, while I tried to sneak a bright red bow onto his bald head. And the white-light-and-poinsettia decorated tree my mom and I used to put up for Christmas. I’d bet my words are drawing up memories of your own, and also some regrets — the feeling that holidays haven’t been that way in a while.
Growing out of childhood, understanding that special occasions aren’t islands, completely untouched by the worries of yesterday and tomorrow, tend to tamper that unrestrained joy they once had. Knowledge that the decorations are going to be taken down in a few weeks can do a lot to convince us not to put them up in the first place.
We shouldn’t let it. Because while we can think of dozens of excuses to put things off, our lives are, without a doubt, a reason to celebrate.
And I will admit, sometimes that takes effort; it might involve pushing yourself to go out with your friends when you’re not sure you’re up to it, planning an activity for a weekend that doesn’t seem to be going somewhere, discarding the guilt of letting yourself have a cupcake every once in a while. But if we’re not willing to work ourselves into a celebratory mood, what are we working for?
This Fourth of July, I want everyone to have a plan set. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it doesn’t have to be what I, or anyone else thinks is a good time, but make the day special. Try to think of those moments of pure elation you’ve felt throughout your life, and then merge yourself with that memory.
Or if you, like Harry Potter summoning a Patronus, are having some trouble– just imagine what it must have felt like on that first Glorious Fourth, when the specter of war would have been lifted off the heads of the American populace, and they let themselves feel drunk on their new freedom. It sounds cheesy, but it was real to them, and I don’t think you need to go through their hardship to have their joy.
I’ll leave you with one last thought: throughout the world’s history of conquering, the one thing that new rulers seldom touched was the area’s established holidays; they might alter them, but they didn’t take them away. And we should not let them be wrested from us now, just because we are not holding onto them strongly enough.
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