What the Fourth of July Means to Me
Posted by pinkjuniormints on July 7, 2009
I suppose I’m a bit late posting this, given that July Fourth was a few days ago, but it took me a little while to compose my thoughts on the matter.
When asked what their favorite holiday is, most people will say “Christmas,” “my birthday,” or some other event that involves the distribution of gifts. I will admit I am no different. I do enjoy being the center of attention on my birthday (November 23, in case you were wondering) and revel in my family’s obscenely overdone Christmas festivities.
But I also enjoy the Fourth of July. Being that I’ve spent 21 out of the 22 Independence Days for which I’ve been alive in the same place with most of the same people, I’ve come to see it as a family holiday, a time to spend with relatives.
My dad’s family has owned a cottage along the Tunkhannock Creek in Wyoming County for about 50 years, although it was built sometime in the 1920s. My grandparents fixed it up and took my dad and his siblings there a lot in the summers.
My dad loved it there, and I’ve loved it too since I was little. The Fourth takes precedence over all my other summer plans. I will literally plan my entire summer around it. One year, I gave up a trip to Hawaii because it would’ve meant being away for the Fourth. This is nowhere near the dedication shown by my father in 2005 when he celebrated the Fourth at the cottage two weeks after having extremely invasive surgery to treat his prostate cancer. (Don’t get me wrong, I loved that he was able to be there, but it hurt me to watch him limp around the yard with a catheter bag).
We’ve spent so much time there together over the years, which is probably why it’s both soothing and difficult for me to go there now. On one hand, I can feel his presence there just as strongly as I can at his house. On the other hand, the abundance of memories makes my heart hurt, since I know I can never again make memories there with him.
This year, obviously, was a transition year for me. I had to go from being at the cottage with my dad to having to be at the cottage with my mom. (This was probably also a transition for her, too, since the last time she was there was several floods ago). It hurt, being there for the Fourth without him for the first time, but I know that he wouldn’t have it any other way and would want me to be there.
This year was also a transition for the United States. This was its first Fourth of July with a black president. Over the past 18 months, I have had so many wonderful opportunities and experiences through working with the Obama campaign, and have met so many wonderful people, both famous and civilian.
My experiences have made me feel more proud of my country than I ever have been before. Seeing so many people participate and be interested in the election was inspiring. It has made me so much more grateful to be an American. After all, there are only a handful of countries on Earth where someone of my gender and age could so freely participate in politics.
So while yes, it did hurt to be at the cottage without my dad, this year gave it new meaning. Between learning more about my dad after his death and working for the Obama campaign, I had a newfound appreciation for this year’s Fourth of July.