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Today's the Day! Happy Fourth of July, Y'all!

Today's the Day! Happy Fourth of July, Y'all!

I'm not sure when Independence Day became the sweetheart of all holidays for me. I suppose, in part, it is a huge party, at a carefree time of year, that I dearly love. But, I think there's more.

Maybe it began when, as a young child, we sometimes drove out of the Washington, D.C. humidity to join our extended family for a simple, but festive, holiday. Oh (!) how I hated no fireworks - but there was a county fair, and sparklers, a parade and a very long table (or two?) that my uncle would set up for my grandmother outdoors. It was festooned with a tablecloth and real china and flatware. It sat next to her gorgeous run of hollyhocks along the side of her home that stood straight as soldiers at attention - full of blossoms - at least this is how I remember it.

Relatives, her own brothers and sisters, and a few of their adult children (my mother's cousins) were nearby in the neighborhood and would walk a few short blocks to the gathering. One year I was given an old fire truck bell, barely able to lift it, to ring to let everyone know it was time to eat. Small American flags lined the streets and the time spent with World War II veterans, my great uncles and uncle, in retrospect, probably only in their 40's and 50's at the time, was an honor. 

Then there were the occasions we remained at our Maryland home and witnessed the splendiferous fireworks in DC (once or twice from the South Lawn of The White House) or attended neighborhood displays and had hamburgers and hotdogs and my mother's most amazing potato salad! I've celebrated on the beach in Bethany, Delaware (thank you BFF, Andrea!), on a boat on the Patapsco River near Baltimore Harbor and watched fireworks off the deck of the Pride of Baltimore II. We have revelled under the resplendent fireworks in Jacksonville, as they were flowing and flying on the St. Johns River from the "blue" bridge and near the Pier at JAX Beach.

Some of my favorite 4th of July celebrations were at our home between Annapolis in Baltimore. One year, we hosted a 4th of July party for our neighbors. It didn't take long include close friends and family, and in true southern hostess fashion, I chose a theme every year for our celebration.

Themes included Bison Burgers and Brewskies (bison and microbrews), another Carnival, War of 1812 and TEXAS! We tailored our food and beverage choices around our themes, as well as our decor. For Carnival we had our striped popcorn containers filled by a florist with red, white and blue arrangements. A bubble machine greeted guests at the door. We wore red and white wide-striped blazers and skimmer hats, and served circus peanuts, real peanuts and popcorn as snacks, added corndogs to our hamburger and hotdog menu, and our giveaway treats were small containers of cotton candy!

By the time we'd reached capacity at about 35 guests, we moved the location to our local Knights of Columbus hall for what would be our final Independence Day soiree. A few months later, my husband would leave for his new job, five states away, and the ability to have the party, and too much taveling back and forth, went with him.

I miss that party, and those friends and neighbors who spent the holiday with us, more than ever!

However, I think the real reason I embrace this holiday, aside from what it means for all Americans, is there are no expectations other than what you want to make of it. Most other holidays are more about family traditions, centered around couples or kids (which is great, if you have them!). They may involve stressful travel, possibly gifts, and often a friend or relative who may feel like the "add-on" guest, is uncomfortable amid the familiarity of even a family group. With Independence Day, there are no societal or cultural expectations of who attends what, where and or with whom. 

The Fourth of July allows us to show up single, married, partnered, children, no children, young, old. We can enjoy fireworks alone, or with a group, take in the beach or pool by ourselves, with a friend, or a party of 12, stay home and read a book - it's just that kind of holiday - and it can look different every single year.

Consider that there are no judgements and no awkward conversations, just people, from everywhere and anywhere, coming together to share a celebration, some great food and the glow of fireworks. This is, truly, the snapshot of what America, itself, is all about: a sense of place for everyone with no pretense. I love this day for all that it is, but also for what it is not.

To you and yours, may your Independence Day celebration, however it manifests, be safe, peaceful, joyful and, even, reflective. God bless America!

Bethany Beach, Delaware

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