Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Born on the Fourth of July"

My grandma always sings “Yankee Doodle Dandy” on the Fourth of July, but for a special reason of her own in addition to the season of American patriotism. This year, my grandma’s sweetheart, Grandpa, will celebrate his eighty-fourth birthday on the Fourth of July. By looking back at memories of the Fourth of July celebrations of my childhood, I’ve realized that my feelings of gratitude for our country were also “born on the Fourth of July” as I’ve become grateful for the family with which I lived those memories.

When I was a kid, the morning of the Fourth of July at my home involved weaving red, white, and blue crepe paper in the spokes of my bicycle and curling trails of patriotic ribbon for the handlebars—necessary preparations for our town’s Fourth of July parade. The parade always started with a crowd of parents leading children on bicycles, tricycles, wagons, and strollers all decorated for the holiday. Anyone could join in as long as you lined up in time. Before the parade, our family went to our ward building for the Boy Scouts’ flag raising and the annual ward Independence Day pancake breakfast. At the parade, when we had finished our circle around the four-block downtown, we found a seat on a curb and waited for floats to drive by and throw candy. Later, in the afternoon, we had barbecue at home, and when it got dark Dad would drive us around to look for professional firework displays because in our county we weren’t allowed to light our own.

That was Fourth of July at home, but sometimes our family traveled to my dad’s hometown
of Rexburg, Idaho for the holiday. Because of Grandpa’s birthday, Independence Day in Rexburg always seemed like a double-holiday to me, and our routine at Grandma’s house was slightly different than from ours back home. Rexburg was a bigger city than my hometown, and instead of riding my own bike in the parade, the highlight of the holiday was seeing Grandpa ride in the parade in a nice convertible. When I was very young I thought that Grandpa rode in the parade in a fancy car because it was his birthday, but I later learned that it was because Grandpa served as an Idaho state senator for twenty-five years.

After my cousins and I caught as much candy as possible from the parade, we went back to Grandma’s house for a giant patriotic sheet cake decorated with “Happy Birthday, Grandpa!” Later that night, my uncles and older cousins would light fireworks in the driveway and when ours were all burned out we’d sit around in lawn chairs and watch the neighbor’s. Both at home and at Grandma’s, the Fourth of July always ended up being the perfect day.

But when these memories occurred, I wasn’t that proud or grateful to be an American; I was just a kid trying to catch candy in the parade. I had dozens of elementary school lessons about Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the pilgrims, and others who helped form our country, but I didn’t fully appreciate the significance of the freedoms we enjoy. However, now that I look back at the parades, barbecues, and fireworks that color my Fourth of July memories, I realize that an appreciation for our country is in them because my Fourth of July memories are all about my family. The holiday allows families to get together, but the freedoms we have in our nation allow our families to stay together each and every day because we can make a living and live the religion and values we hold dear. Looking back, for me the patriotic spirit started as I watched my grandpa—a solid citizen, an honest farmer, and a loving father and grandfather—ride in the annual Rexburg Fourth of July parade.

Memories of Grandpa’s birthday remind me that the tradition of patriotism and gratitude for our country is fostered in every child by memories that are “born on the Fourth of July.” All in all, my Fourth of July memories spiral down to my family and gratitude to God for those memories and that family—a prayer of gratitude and commitm
ent that for us, as individuals and families, “In God We Trust.”

*Add a comment!
What meaningful Fourth of July memories have occurred in your life?


C.L. Beck said...

Very nice story!

I always thought it would be fun to be born on the 4th of July.

And isn't it a grand country that we live in?

Jennifer Ricks said...

Thank you for your comment! It is a great country, and I hope you had a great Fourth of July!