This is specifically to assure you that my children do NOT think that the 4th of July is only about burgers, fireworks and the Boston Pops.
Nope. For this history geek's family the following also holds true for the week of the 4th:
A Mega Movie Marathon.
A tacky flag shaped jello-salad will appear at some cook-out, at some point in the week.
You are allowed to shout the following ..."Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!!" when your mother makes her morning appearance.
Yup. In my brain this makes perfect sense.
I skip the everyoneweargreenandred family Christmas photo.
I skip the everyonewearkhakianddenim family portrait photo.
I skip just about every holiday themed family photo op there is on the calendar....
....except July 4th.
For July 4th I will begin my search 8 weeks in advance for the most competitively priced patriotic themed T-shirts and then make my family keep their red, white and blue shirts in their dresser drawer until July 4th. NO ONE is allowed to wear the shirt until the specified day. Then, they must wear the shirt ALL DAY on the 4th.
Nothing says Independence Day Fun like a T-shirt that has absorbed the odors of grill, catsup, potato salad, orange soda, bug spray, sun screen and gun powder smoke, with a little pre-teen deodorant forgetfulness thrown in for good measure.
Most people associate the fourth day of July with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Technicalities aside, the fourth was a very key day in that document's history, so we can go with that.
In my family, however, we also choose to remember the three day battle that took place in a tiny little town in Pennsylvania on July 1-3,1863: Gettysburg. We watch the movies Gods and Generals, Gettysburg, and maybe some segments of the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War. To the extent that some of us can quote the Chamberlain brothers, Lee, Pickett, Jackson and Sullivan Ballou's letter home before the battle of Bull Run..... but I'm not mentioning names....even if my children still roll their eyes....
For whatever cook-out/potluck we attend for the holiday I will usually commit to bringing my jello-salad set in the mold shape of a waving flag. Using strawberry flavored jello, blueberries and whipped cream, I can create a fairly good representation of Old Glory. As long as I don't try to take the jello out of the mold.....ever. We just decorate it and serve it form the mold itself....something about not letting the flag touch the ground...even in jello form....sigh.
About the Huzzah.....
You see, one of my favorite time periods in United States history is the War of 1812. Think...making sure the British really were convinced that we were serious in 1776 about that whole free and independent thing.
While I am almost certain that I can come up with something significant that happened in that war on a July 4th, I'm not sure that it really matters for this.
This is the day my favorite piece of U.S.history comes alive. The U.S.S. Constitution, one of the first six frigates in the United States Navy, and the oldest commissioned, naval ship afloat takes a cruise around her host harbor every year on the 4th. She parades through the harbor, fires her cannon in salute and reminds us all that history can indeed reach out from the past to touch us in the present.
Her nick-name is "Old Ironsides" due to the fact that cannon balls would literally bounce off her hull during battle. Hence the quote from a 19th century sailor greeting me some mornings in my caffeine deprived stupor.
Why would a mother allow her children to shout such things at her, comparing her to an inanimate object?
Well, this particular inanimate object is:
1) over 200 years old and still not retired
2) undefeated in battle
3) the recipient of multi-million dollar restorations to keep her in tip-top shape
Who wouldn't want to be referred to as such????
Oh, Yeah,...She also lives at the Charlestown Navy Yard, in Boston Harbor ;)
Which brings me back to my gluten free cheeseburger, non-fat low sugar iced coffee and my Boston Pops concert watched from the comfort of my central air-conditioned living room on my husband's laptop for the local, not national broadcast this year.
'Cause while some things change, others can and should remain the same....
and I didn't miss the class on that!