I know most of you readers are gearing up for Independence Day. And I’m thinking of you right now. I love living in a country other than the one I’m from. I’ve made my home in S. Africa even though it’s not the land of my birth. There’s no doubt it has made me a richer person as I’ve navigated cultural blunders and learned that not everyone thinks the way my American brain thinks. What a shock! However, when it comes to certain holidays my American roots go deep, and everything within me has to celebrate. Fourth of July, Independence Day, is one of those holidays.
Until I was an adult, I never realized how big of a deal Fourth of July was to me. My dad was on the local fire department crew, and every year the fire department put on a fireworks show for our little town. The festivities, though, started long before it got dark enough for fireworks. I remember going up to the ballpark mid morning and spending the whole day there playing on the playground, trying my feet at the three legged races, and even participating in watermelon seed spitting just so I could savor the cold, juicy fruit. The food of choice was, of course, barbecue and cobblers, potato salad and corn. As night fell, we would all gather for the light show. I loved the sparkle and color that filled the sky. I think I could have sat for hours in the beauty of it. It was a highlight of my Summer, a memory that is forever etched into the pages of my childhood.
I still celebrate my country’s independence, but it looks extremely different. It’s the one day of the year that we politely ask to barbecue instead of braai. We stand huddled around the fire shivering in the cold night air. Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the 4th falls during our Winter. We do light fireworks and sparklers and ooh and ahh from under the scarves and blankets trying to keep us warm. It’s so different compared to my childhood memories, but I guess other memories are in the making.
As I was planning our celebration one year, I told my African friends that they need feel no obligation to celebrate America. One of them responded by saying, “Of course, I will come. We are family.”
That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? Whether you’re from the same continent or not, celebrations are about coming together as friends and family to laugh, create memories, and eat good food. Whether you’re celebrating in the homeland or from across an ocean, I hope your 4th is surrounded by the people that bring a smile to your face.
Happy 4th of July, friends!