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My Fifty-eighth Fourth: Looking Back

July 4, 2015

IMG_0006One of those unsubstantiated news polls going around claimed that a large percentage of people questioned didn’t know why we celebrated the Fourth of July.  I don’t trust polls in general, since (1. I rarely answer them with any degree of seriousness; (2. I have my doubts about people who have time or inclination in the middle of the day (or supper) to answer survey questions.

I do remember one young lady I taught who asked her new employer if they ever got any holidays. When she was told they had Independence Day off, she said, “Independence Day? Good lands! What’s that?”  In all fairness, she’s also the girl who got up during home room to check the dictionary when someone told her “gullible” wasn’t in there.)

I’ve had so many memorable Fourths. The best childhood memories always included an early ride to Mars Hill school to buy several containers of chicken stew. A year or two, I also helped the previous night as a chicken picker or tater chopper, with everyone working together, singing old gospel hymns as we worked. The authentic recipe requires massive quantities cooked over a fire in big cast iron pots, stirred with a boat paddle. It has taken me years since I moved from North Alabama to figure out how to make a smaller quantity that tastes like the original. I think I may be there.

One particularly special Fourth, the Bicentennial celebration, I spent in Philadelphia with my friend Robin and her husband, a new medical student there. I had helped them moved not much before, and I begged to join them for the big celebration. Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom” was a hit that week.  I think “Rhinestone Cowboy” too.  We dig all the fun tourist points, touched, the Liberty Bell (right on the crack), sat in a park one night listening to patriotic music accompanied by fireworks (and yes, they were red, white, and blue!)

We watched the countdown clock to the precise second when the Declaration of Independence was signed, and then on the evening of the Fourth, we went to the rooftop to watch a synchronized fireworks show across the city, reportedly using more gun powder than was shot during the entire Revolutionary War.

In 1997, I left Charlotte on the afternoon of the Fourth flying to China with my best friend Debbie and her family to adopt their second daughter Allie. Since they had chosen to bring their five-year-old Darby along for the two weeks, I came to be an extra set of hands. The transition from poolside party to Hong Kong, just that week handed over from Great Britain to China, was a bit of a culture shock, especially since the Chinese military made quite a presence. Nothing makes one aware of nationality like spending time in a city of six million people (Wuhan in Hubei provide) without seeing any other Caucasians except our traveling companions.  I must say, though, we were treating with kindness as well as curiosity.

For the first several years in North Carolina, the Fourth was a day we spent traditionally with friends, an all-day event starting with early morning golf, a day at the pool or riding the pontoon on Lake Hickory, then Bar-B-Q and fixings, massive fireworks, and some beautiful voices singing our best-loved patriotic songs. That tradition was broken by the untimely loss of our dear friend and host. Since then, the “usuals” have dispersed, building other new traditions.  I have no doubt that I’m not alone in stopping for awhile today to remember our friend.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kathy permalink
    July 7, 2015 1:21 am

    Living in Atlanta for 30 years, the biggest July 4th tradition was running the Peachtree Road Race 10K. I ran it the first time in 1983, and the last time was in 2009 with my son. It is an Atlanta tradition that I enjoyed many times with various friends and family members. Over 50,000 runners makes it the largest 10K in America I believe. One year I didn’t run, but took my friend’s, Joan Page’s 3 year old daughter dressed in red/white/blue waving a flag as her mom crossed the finish line. The coveted tee shirt is always proudly worn to any Independence Day Celebration iin Atlanta, showing off that you ran the race earlier in the day. I’ve even seen them on strangers all over the country.

    Fourth of July at Pensacola Beach coincides with the annual Red White and Blues
    air show. Always scheduled the weekend after the fourth, most visitors come for the whole week. It is a very crowded, exciting time to be here. Friends know they have to reserve their Owen guest room early in the year if they want to attend the event! This week we have 2 couples coming in on Thursday. One is coming from Newton NC and the other from Atlanta. It is a very high energy, fun, patriotic weekend, and the Blue Angels never disappoint.

    The other Independence Day that comes to mind, was in 1984 when I was in London with Sandy and Frank! It was the last day of a 3 week European tour. I was fortunate enough to be a “chaperone” for well behaved kids who didn’t need much guidance. I think most of them were from Sandy’s Sunday School class at First Baptist. Of course England didn’t celebrate the USA holiday at all…afterall it was Independence from them hahaha. At the time London was known for the first group of “punkers” and we had seen them around town with their odd clothes and hairstyles. Some of the kids thought it would be great fun to shock their parents when they got home the next day, so we spent that July 4th finding them punk clothes to wear, and temporarily dyeing their hair orange and fuscia! I have some of the funniest pictures of me helping them with their styling. Do you remember that Sandy?

  2. July 7, 2015 2:09 pm

    Kathy, who’s your friend in Newton?

    I took students to Europe several years, and there’s no better time than going with well-behaved students–and no worse with the opposite. We usually went at Spring break or just when school let out. We were in London right after the Queen Mother died, so we were able to watch the funeral procession–quite a grand affair.

    We were also in Normandy on D-Day in 2005. In St. Mere Eglise, our students met several veterans who were back to commemorate the day, including an American man for whom a street was named there. If you EVER get a chance to go there, the Airborne museum is wonderful–very small and personal. If you’ve seen the movie The Longest Day, you’ve seen Red Buttons’ parachute caught in the church steeple there. They still have a parachute hanging. Unforgettable!

    One of the girls in our group had a buckeye her grandfather had picked up in the church yard after he landed. He had carried it with him always, then left it to her.

  3. Kathy permalink
    July 9, 2015 1:42 am

    My friend in Newton is Lisa Allen. She and her husband, Wayne, moved there last summer when he took a job in Lenoir. She is originally from Lexington NC and still has all her family there, but I met her in Atlanta in 1985 and we’ve been friends ever since. Also, Wayne and I went to high school together in Pensacola.

    I was in Normandy a long time ago but it was a Flower Garden tour and we didn’t go to the Airborne Museum. We spend most of our time in Honfleur.

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