I’m weird. Let’s just get that out of the way. And although most people that know me probably don’t know this, somewhere along the line of my life the 4th of July became one of my favorite holidays. Or at least it used to be.
Now when I answer the occasional Facebook survey or someone asks me, “What’s your favorite holiday?” I’ll usually give them the traditional Christmas answer, but when I really think about it, the 4th of July has always given me so much more excitement and joy than most other holidays. And although I know that I have better memories, for some reason, when I think about the 4th, I find a lot of reasons to smile.
When I was little I remember watching my brothers and my brother-in-law light piccolo petes (I hated those) and pretty fountains with my dad. My favorite was always the ground bloom flowers. We always had lots of sparklers that I got to play with. At one point or another, while we all sat around watching the fireworks, it seemed like every year someone’s truck bed, whether it be one of my brothers’ or my dad’s old Chevy, would turn into a makeshift bed where me, my mom, my sister and, when they started to show up, my nieces and nephews would all cuddle up with blankets and pillows.
More times than not it seems like the 4th of July was the one holiday we could get my dad to make homemade vanilla ice cream and not complain, too much. Two of my earliest childhood best friends just happened to be two boys that lived just a few houses up or down from me, so growing up I’d get to watch their families light fireworks and us kids would bounce back and forth from house to house.
My first 4th of July, after my dad passed, was even a good memory. A great one really. By this point in life a lot of my family relationships and family dynamics had changed or were changing so every year wasn’t the big family get together I remembered it to be. At this point and time, I was also single and “dating” my now husband but nothing was official. For this 4th I remember my mom made slow cooked pulled pork sandwiches and I made walnut crunch brownies. Because it was just my mom and I we didn’t spend money on our own fireworks, so my now husband and I spent the entire 4th on my roof eating brownies, pulled pork sandwiches and watching big firework shows go off all around us.
Once my husband enlisted, I spent two 4th of Julys back to back without him. My first 4th on my own was also a really good one, surprisingly. It was the first time all my siblings (minus my brother, he was back in Arizona still) were together in one room in a long time, it may have also been the last. My oldest brother invited all of us over to his house for the 4th. My other brother had been living in Arizona so I hadn’t seen his kids in quite a while. It was one of the first times I got to have all my nieces and nephews together in one room and that’s what made the day extra special.
My last 4th of July in California was an interesting one and somewhat of a bittersweet memory, but still in my mind a great holiday. At this point, I was unemployed and had already decided I would be moving to Hawaii in a few months. I was also getting ready to pack up and move to Utah to save up for a bit. I was splitting my time between living with one of my dad’s oldest friends and his family, and my sister’s. In the morning on this 4th my sister’s youngest crawled into bed with me and let me hold her while she drank her bottle. It’s one of the sweetest simple memories I have. This 4th was also the last time I got to see one of my best friends Craig. He was getting ready to move to Chicago for his Master’s. I spent most of my day with his family. We still keep in touch, but I haven’t seen him since.
Then Hawaii happened. My 4th of Julys in Hawaii were just one disaster after another. The first year my to-be husband and I decided to watch a firework show from the USS Missouri. Little did we know that it would just be the backside of the Hickam military firework show across the harbor. A show we could have gone to for free. The following year we got invited to a BBQ on base, which wasn’t too bad, but when it came time for the firework show we wanted to try out the Kailua Beach show, which was right down the street from our home. But we waited too long and by the time we got to the beach it was way too packed to be enjoyable. On our last 4th there we decided to do Kailua right and rode our bikes up to the beach early in the afternoon to stake out the best spot. Then the clouds and wind rolled in and the firework show was nearly canceled. It did eventually go on, but we were so burnt out and exhausted that we just wanted to go home.
This year I just didn’t have the energy to even try anymore. It’s been such a hectic year and I’m so stressed out and over everything that is happening around me; I was done this year. Rather than make a big deal or even look for shows to go to, I told my husband I just wanted to stay home. My sister-in-law had told us her neighbors go all out anyways, so I figured we’d have a decent show (and we did). This year we just barbecued and sat out in our backyard and watched things explode around us.
It was nice and relaxing. Stress free! But as I sat watching our new neighbor’s semi-professional looking show, it hit me…the magic is gone for me. Not that the 4th evokes much feeling of “magic” for the normal person, but those are the exact words my brain used to tell me, that the 4th just isn’t what it used to be for me and possibly never will be again. And that’s ok.
That initial thought did make me sad, but I’ve now sat on it for a while and thought it over. It makes me sad that I may never have those types of 4th of July memories again, but I have other things that make me happy and every year I’m starting new traditions and finding my own ways to celebrate things. The 4th of July may not excite me the way it used to, but I’ve found joy in other holidays and other activities.