The Fourth of July might just be my favorite holiday. I love Christmas and Thanksgiving, but they have so much more pressure attached. There are gifts, traditions, weighty religious and historical undertones, and all sorts of hype. But on July 4th, we do, as my father says, what Americans do best: “eat, and blow stuff up.” In the Stone family, this also means dying the food red, white, and blue. I don’t just mean the food that is dyable, like a cake or fruit salad. No. To put it in perspective, one year my mother dyed the chicken blue.
James keeps on telling me that when I eventually spend the Fourth in DC I will love it, but I am not convinced. The big cities can claim Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or New Year’s, but the Fourth belongs to small towns, rural outposts, and tiny communities. It is the holiday where we remember our nations beginnings, where we revel in what we should be proud of, and where we foster hope for our future. And all these things happen best in small towns, where people still know their neighbors and multiple generations cluster together to watch the night sky shimmer with fireworks. Thomas Jefferson said that American should be a nation of small farms, and while I am definitely not recommending chucking capitalism and going total agrarian, I do think that there is something profoundly American about viewing our country as a patchwork of individual units that never really give up their individuality. And how could I best remember that if I was watching fireworks in a Capital that is happily signing away individual liberty at an alarming rate?
And no Fourth is better than Fourth in Wilmore, KY, my hometown. I am pretty sure it is what the Founders had in mind with that whole pursuit of happiness thing. the synchronized lawnmower brigade rolls through town. the local grocers chop watermelon for hours in the sun. a menu fit for paradise. man on tractor, smoking a pipe, with a flag, in a parade – that is America. free kittens. 25 cent hotdogs. patriotic potato salad. sparkly crowns from the craft fair. Ivy, the adopted stray and cookout companion.
Happy Birthday America, I do love you.