Summer Sunday: Independence

Summer Sunday: Independence

4th of JulyUnder the pretext of celebrating the anniversary of our nation’s independence, every fourth, Americans gather. From the corners of America’s small rural towns to the avenues of her most distinguished cities, families participate in traditions that they have been playing out for generations — gathering for outdoor BBQs, mixing spicy blood Marys, decorating bikes, watching small town parades, donning red white and blue bikini tops, lighting fireworks bought from roadside stands, running with sparklers, and of course watching fireworks light up the sky.

On the Fourth, some of us may actually think about our nation’s history and try and tell it to our children. More often than not, it will fall on deaf ears as history lessons rarely compete with bottle rockets. And appropriately, the Fourth is more about gathering with family than the details of our nation’s history. Whatever one’s depth or understanding of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the early events of the Revolutionary War or the Sons of Liberty may be, Americans in general do all know one principle intimately: independence.

Independence though is a funny thing, because as the British must have realized, it is much easier to seek than it is to grant. Although I’m not a politician, I am a mother and there is no more a persistent independent seeker than a child. Each summer is a mile marker, a consistent reminder, that their independence is growing.

Summer marks a visible and significant stage in a child’s life. It’s the time between school grades and then major phases: elementary and middle school; middle school and high school, high school and college; college and a job. It’s the time they’ll bring boyfriends home, and their friends and interests will change, as will their height.

And the Fourth of July is the quintessential summer weekend. The weekend when we freeze time. We keep all of the variables the same—we return to the same place, often with the same people, and perform the same traditions – and the one thing we can’t keep the same are our children.

The pictures are already telling the story — posing after the Rundola at Lift Seven, after the parade on Main Street and at the fireworks in Town Park. I look the same, except for the crow’s feet around my eyes that grow a little deeper and the strands of grey hair that proliferate a little more each year, but my children are visibly growing up.

This year, I was proud as I watched my seven-year-old daughter skateboard without me in the town parade, run a block ahead of me holding her cousin’s hand, and remind me incessantly that she can do it herself. But, that pride is conflicted with the desire to hold on.

It’s evident the Fourth of July not only marks years of our nation’s independence, but the growing independence of our children — and this is the most important history that I will experience, record, celebrate, and eventually tell, every Fourth of July.

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