Happy Belated Birthday, America!

I’ve always thought Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. It’s the one holiday where my entire family was usually together. My aunts and uncles would come in from wherever they were; we would eat, the cousins would play, there would be lots of noise, and everyone was happy. This year I realized July 4th has been sadly underrated in my life.

July 4th, of 4th of July, was spent every year in Lebanon, MO.  Every year, my grandpa and grandma would pack up the car, with me in it, and drive the 10 hours to my great-grandma’s house. We would arrive to a house full of aunts and uncles, hugs and kisses, and lots of “Where’s Amber?!” 

We always spent a week in Lebanon.  Usually, I was treated to two seperate shopping trips. One with my Aunt Betty and one with my Aunt Gerri.  My Aunt Lois always took me to Mansfield, MO, where Laura Ingalls Wilder’s final house was. We always took the tour, a bought the next book in the Little House Series. Uncle Lee always took me firework shopping, sparklers galore.  Uncle Homer always had the best hugs.

On the 4th, we had homemade vanilla ice cream.  The uncles a d grandpa took turns cranking the maker. My aunts, granny, and great-grandma were inside constantly cooking, napping, or reading. Aunt Lois was a quilter and always had a new colorful block of beauty to ogle over.

After a day full of eating and napping, we always had some yummy vanilla ice cream before heading off to the racetrack for fireworks. The next day most everyone started packing up and heading off into the seperate directions again, only to be seen again the next year.

Yesterday I realized how downplayed the 4th of July had always been during my childhood. It was never hyped up like Thanksgiving or Christmas. I realized even if this holiday isn’t spent with my family anymore, that I have a childhood of wonderful memories.

This holiday will always be special to me, as it should be for everyone. Not because of the fireworks, BBQing, or boating.  This is the one holiday that simply has one meaning, Happy Birthday, America! Freedom!

The 4th of July is the holiday that allows us to celebrate every other holiday as we wish.  Religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to marry person of color or gender of choice, freedom to voice said opinions, freedom to vote, freedom to sit where you want, freedom to use the same restroom.  Freedom. We celebrate freedom. That statement is so enormous is gives me goosebumps to type it. Freedom. 

I am a woman who not too long ago didn’t have the right to vote, own property, or even have value unless I was married. With the freedom of speech and ability to fight, other women before me gained the right for me. Just like other men and women before us fought for or freedom to be free and celebrate the 4th of July. We have freedom, because someone else paid the price.

So for me, even though I have known all along the important of Independence Day, this year, among the upheaval and hatred in our society, it hit me: Independence Day is the day that allows me to celebrate every other holiday, as well as live every other day, as I choose. I am free and celebrate freedom every day of my life; and from now on, hold the 4th of July a little closer to my heart.

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