Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence or Bust!

by Caren Crane

In the USA, today is Independence Day. Most of us are happy to have the day off from work and spend time with our family and friends. At my house this is, traditionally, a day we don't do much besides grill hot dogs and watch fireworks.

Today, however, my daughters have a job to do. They are Program Aides (counselors) at a Girl Scout day camp. At first, I thought it was odd they were having day camp on Independence Day. But as the plans developed and my girls frantically assembled appropriate red, white and blue attire for the day, I saw it as a great opportunity for my girls to share what Independence Day means to them with the younger Girl Scouts and to make sure Independence Day means more than fireworks to the little people.

When I was 11, the USA celebrated its Bicentennial. What a huge celebration that was! I recall special ceremonies at school, in the community, on television. And it wasn't just on Independence Day, it was the whole year! Now, 31 years after the Bicentennial, I still remember that heightened sense of pride and patriotism. Not because of a war or a perceived enemy, but because we studied and heard about and talked about the principles on which our country was founded. The sacrifices our forefathers made to ensure we could live by those principles, the efforts people have made over the last 231 years to ensure those principles are upheld. That is the source of my patriotism and, in my opinion, what makes the USA great.

So, what does Independence Day look like at your house? And are fireworks legal where you live? (The good ones are illegal for the public where I live!) Ever burned yourself with a patriotic, but ill-executed display of pyrotechnics? Or, my favorite, do you have any special memories from the Bicentennial?


Anonymous said...

Hi Caren!

I don't have memories of the Bicentennial (I was three at the time) but I was old enough to be dressed up in an adorable red white and blue handmade outfit, along with my sister and our two best friends who lived around the block(we were three, four, five and six) and we had our own little parade, complete with little flags and noisemakers. These pictures are still the pride of the family!

I hope everyone has a wonderful fourth and enjoys some great time with the family and friends. Thanks for the great post Caren!


Christie Kelley said...

The fourth has always been an occasion at my house. When I was growing up it was one of my brother's birthdays so we had cake and ice cream and lit sparklers. Now that I have my own family, we're still celebrating a birthday. My oldest son was born on the 4th. I'm still amazed that he is turning 15 and in one year will be able to drive!

We actually go to watch fireworks on the 3rd from our boat. There is a nearby waterfront community that blows off fantastic (and professional) fireworks over the water. We hook up with about 12-15 other boaters from our community and have a big party with people hopping from one boat to another.

This year we had the teen boat. We had close to 10 teenagers on the front of our boat watching fireworks. It was great fun.

But now I must get back to frosting the birthday cake.

Trish Milburn said...

Kirsten, what a cute story about the little parade! I too was too young to really remember a lot about the Bicentennial. I have kind of vague memories. I had just turned 6.

Christie, we weren't on a boat, but we did much the same thing last night. We live near a lake, and we walked one street over last night and watched the fireworks they shot off from the lake-front water park.

We typically travel to visit family for the 4th, but we're home this year since it's in the middle of the week and hubby has to go to work tomorrow and I have to finish packing for the Dallas trip.

Caren Crane said...

Such babies Kirsten and Trish! I was in 5th grade and we had a HUGE Bicentennial musical. My class and two others put the whole thing on. On the first day of rehearsal, we were instructed to NOT TALK at all during the rehearsal.

Being a rule follower of the first order, I did not talk. However, one of my friends asked me a question. My best friend, as a matter of fact. So I answered her in a very soft whisper. I, of course, got caught and tossed out of the musical. Yes, I was the example of why one shouldn't talk. My teacher was horrified, because I was her best student (and something of a pet, I fear). But the music teacher in charge didn't care for me. No idea why. So, out I went.

I recall reading a lot of good books during the endless hours of rehearsals. So, I didn't get to be in the play, but I knew all the songs and choreography *and* read all the Caldecott award-winning books that year. Guess I made out after all!

Caren Crane said...

Christie, that's so great to have a holiday birthday in the family! I have nieces born on New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day. My own birthday too often falls on Mother's Day. I think having a birthday at the holiday makes it extra-special.

And congrats on hosting the teen boat! It's a compliment, you know. If you weren't cool, they totally wouldn't hang out on your boat. You must be the coolest mom ever. Enjoy the day and Happy Birthday to your son!

Kate Carlisle said...

OMG, everyone! I won't even mention where I was during the Bicentennial because I'm afraid I'll be *ahem* dating myself.

Let's just say, I've got a few cute stories about my pet dinosaurs roaming the cave when I was your age! ;-)

Anyway, great holiday post, Caren! And Happy Fourth, everyone!!!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Kate, as if anyone would believe you were so ancient! I mean, even if your Bicentennial outfit included, say, a flag-print halter top, white hip huggers and chunky, stack-heeled red, white and blue disco shoes, that doesn't mean you were grown up or anything.*g*

Caren Crane said...

By the way, it's around 4 pm and some yahoos across the street are already dabbling in the illegal fireworks. I shudder to think what nightfall will bring!

Suzanne Welsh said...

The 4th has always been interesting in our home. My husband is pyrotechnic geek. At the age of 8 he discovered the formula for gunpowder. Imagine his mother's mortification when he yelled from another aisle in the pharmacy,"Mom, they have salt peter here!" (an age old metal that if poured on men's food made them impotent!).

So for years he's stocked up on fireworks and made his own display out at friends' farms. And I suffered through him trying to blow off an appendage. He never has, and now we live in a suburb, so he can't let off so much as a firecracker!

As for the Bicentennial, I was a senior in high school. So we had our graduating class and every activity tied up in the Bicentennial even the fall before. The funniest thing was, my home town, Columbus, Ohio, painted every fire hydrant to look like little red, white and blue minute men!

Joan said...

Just got in from a fun filled day at my crit partner's house for a 4th of July pool party.

It was great fun floating around on my "noodle" engaging in all types of interesting conversations with 4 2-4 year olds! Ella and I had a great discussion about "bwonies". LOL

As a child I remember my Dad lighting up these old railroad flares in which we stuck our sparklers. We'd dance around with these wonder sticks, throw them up in the air (didn't worry about our eyes) and had a blast.

And...ahem....Suz and Kate I can identify with you about your memories of the Bicentennial. I too was a Senior in HS. I remember our tassels for our graduation hats had that little metal piece in the shape of the Liberty Bell.

But wasn't it lovely when the dinosaurs all lined up and sang "God Bless America" :-)

Joan, who can't take a post pool party nap because of premature firecracker freaks in HER neighborhood. (sigh) Guess I'll write.

jo lewis-robertson said...

Today my oldest son brought my husband those small fireworks that pop when thrown on the floor. When I left the hospital, husband was throwing them at his favorite nurse. I think he's feeling better! Time to come home?

Caren Crane said...

Yes, Jo, I would say the antics with the poppers are a sign he needs to be set loose on the world! Glad to hear he is feeling better and, hopefully, will be home soon!

Caren Crane said...

Suz, are you happy your husband is limited to viewing, or did you enjoy his fireworks? I think it would make me all kinds of twitchy if my husband were in charge of the show!

We just returned from the community fireworks display and it was, as always, simply fabulous! Unlike Christie, who gets to watch from a boat, we perch on the side of the hill at our little strip shopping center up the road.

The display is the finale of a grand day of festivities, including concerts by the NC Symphony, at a very nice park about 2-1/2 miles away. Since the traffic is so heavy and it is always a crush, we choose to camp out closer to home. And every year I'm glad we're not stuck in traffic afterward.*g*

Caren Crane said...

Joan, it sounds like you had a great day. I at least stuck my toes in our pool, but mostly just to cool off. My husband and I were doing pool maintenance (the unglamorous part of owning a pool, I must say). But the work got done, the hot dogs got grilled (and eaten) and our friends came over. A lovely day!

If only I had gotten some writing done. And tomorrow is another day at work. It's no fair having a holiday on a Wednesday!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Honestly Caren, it made me so nervous I volunteered to work many a fourth of July!

Keira Soleore said...

After haunting the banditas for days on end, did Keira fall off the face of the earth? No, nothing interesting like that. Just a combination of relatives, a cultural conference, stuff like that.

Caren, I loved your post about what makes this country great. I will add: free public libraries, the right to gather (Go National), and the freedom to be what we choose to be (even if it is a starving writer)

Hope to go see things blown up tonight. Even as I ooh and aah over the colorful display, it's cathartic. Wish I could send effigies up in flames with a shower of sparks, too.

Banditas: What is the biggest suitcase you've ever traveled with to Conference?

Salt peter in food makes men impotent? Suz, when was this known? Or rather, was this known during the Regency? Yep, writing gears are churning.

Jo, sorry to read that your husband was in the hospital. However, it's far better to read that he returning HOME from the hospital soon.

Joan said...

Well, crawling out from the bunker here in KY. Dear Lord, the neighbors had to have spent thousands of dollars in Tennessee!

Caren, sorry you had to actually WORK on your pool. I DID help gather the floaties when it was over :-) And I did get some writing done though I was distracted by the fact that I SUDDENLY have no clothes to take to conference. None. Nada. So now I have to squeeze in more shopping tomorrow in between hair appts etc. because I get to work Fri/Sat.

Kiera, nice to have you back. Going to conference, the largest piece of luggage I've taken is like a 26" with built in garment bag. Now, my first trip to Ireland I took the super colossal, humongo bag that about broke my back. (A British gentleman staying in our B&B saw us struggling it up some stairs and asked if we had a body in it. LOL

Keira Soleore said...

Joan, har har har on the corpse comment. Given those teeny tiny bags the Britishers of the Raj era traveled with, I think all they held were their brolly, undies, and hankies.

BTW, you've suddenly made me feel great about the number of clothes I'm packing. I thought for sure I would get laughed out of the Hyatt.

Caren, people talked about the noise on the Fourth even 150 years ago.

In a letter written from D.C., Chevalier de Bacourt, France's Minister-Plenipotentiary, said, "Today is a great national holiday. It is celebrated in every part of America, if not with suitable plendor at least with prodigious noise." A year later, he remarked, "I have been kept awake since five o'clock this morning by the incessant noise of cannons and firecrackers. That is the American fashion of showing their satisfaction. To them, noise personifies joy!"

All I can say is, I'm glad cannons went out of fashion a while back.

Trish Milburn said...

Keira, I don't know how big my suitcases are (too lazy to go measure), but since I drive and not fly and it's just me in the car, I can take lots of luggage. :) I am, after all, taking 9 pairs of shoes.

We had great fireworks across the street at our neighbor's house tonight. Hubby and I sat on the front porch and watched. As Joan mentioned, we're a fireworks-selling state here. Whenever we visit family in Kentucky for the 4th, we always pass a ton of roadside fireworks stands right before the state line into Kentucky.

Suzanne Welsh said...


I'll look it up, but I believe it was known in the Regency period, but don't quote me on it, yet!


Keira Soleore said...

Nine pairs, Trish? This gets better and better. I have five, no wait, six. I'm relieved.

Suz, thanks a ton!

Christine Wells said...

Nice post, Caren! I learn so much about American traditions through this blog. Happy Independence Day to all!

danetteb said...

Fireworks are legal in Hawaii,I usually stay home today because my asthma acts up from the smoke. This year my little ones wouldn't let me stay home,we went to a friends house for a bbq and fireworks.It got too much for me,I had to go in the house for a while but the girls had fun *g*

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Trish and Joan, you've made me miss Tennessee! You'll recall that's where I grew up and we had TONS of fireworks every year. My father was a bit of a pyro--not as bad as Suz's husband, though.*g*

Keira, it's really interesting that Americans have been blowing things up for so long. I suppose, being a nation established by Puritans, debtors, outlaws and other assorted misfits, this should not be surprising.*g*

Caren Crane said...

Keira, I have no idea what size my "big" suitcase is, but I usually carry a day pack and purse on the plane and check a huge rolling suitcase. Remember to roll your clothes rather than fold them. They take less space and don't wrinkle as badly. It's super!

The best thing I found for shoes was to take my husband's giant rolling suitcase made for SCUBA gear. It has long pockets on the sides for fins--perfect for shoes and books! It was a bit too large, though, so I'm not bringing the monster this year.

Oh, and one chapter member brought at least a dozens pairs of shoes last year--in shoe boxes! I plan to take 7 pairs right now. That is subject to change at any time!

Caren Crane said...

Danette, glad you got to see a bit of color before the asthma acted up. I hope you and your girls had a wonderful holiday!

Keira Soleore said...

Caren, thanks for the packing tips for clothes. I always pack mine in as few folds as possible and arrive with max wrinkles. I just don't have the patience to fold them into ziplock baggies or in tissue or some such. Rolling, yeah, that I can do.

Caren Crane said...

Keira, once you try rolling, you'll never fold again! Btw, I used this technique when we went to Switzerland recently. Even with the extended time in the suitcase, nothing wrinkled. I had to fit 11 days worth of clothes into a single suitcase and include gear for rain, snow and temperate weather (use ALL of them!). I also had to pack hiking boots and walking shoes, so the shoes for conference should be a breeze!

Keira Soleore said...

Caren, WOW! That's a lot to pack in a single suitcase. Maybe you should do a blog: Packing for National or Packing for Vacation or some such.

BTW, apologies for hijacking your initial blog post in the comments.