By Lisa Sugarman
The red. The white. And the blue. Those magical, iconic colors that, when put together, usually signify one thing. Independence Day. And around here, July Fourth is as close to a religious holiday as you can get without involving a priest or a rabbi.
It means fireworks and festivals, sparklers and parades. And let’s not forget Harbor Illumination, assuming you’re as lucky as we are here on the peninsula to actually have a harbor to illuminate.
July Fourth is one of the few ecumenical holidays that are completely universal. No matter who you are, what you believe, or where you’re from. It celebrates one, simple concept: independence. It celebrates freedom. It embraces life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The only things, frankly, and as far as I’m concerned, that really matter. Things that if we all could just unite around, we’d probably be faced with far fewer conflicts and drama in the world.
See, Independence Day, in my opinion, is really the end-all-be-all in terms of holidays. I mean, if you consider yourself a patriot on any level and you have access to any form of fireworks, that’s all you need to take part. All you have to have is a decent knowledge of the lyrics of the Star-Spangled Banner and you’re good to go at any neighborhood block party, beach bonfire, or July Fourth pool party. It’s really that simple.
Now I know that the way we celebrate the holiday has evolved over the last two hundred-plus years to include more Leinenkugel Summer Shandy with lemon, stuffed hamburgers, and chia seed tortilla chips than it did immediately post-Revolutionary War, but the essence of the holiday remains the same. We commemorate our freedom from tyranny. We just do it slightly different now than we did in 1776.
Today we relax, we celebrate a day off, we drink a little too much beer, and we give thanks to those brave souls who fought and died for our right to overindulge with our families on the back porch and shoot off fireworks.
Not to get too technical, because I’m really trying to dial it down for the summer, but the Fourth of July is, historically, that fun-filled day when we get to commemorate our independence from Great Britain and celebrate the day that Democracy was born. But you already know that, so there’s really no need for me to go into much more detail. Suffice it to say, it’s our day to revel in the fact that we’re free.
And this year’s July Fourth symbolizes all of that for Dave and me, but it also represents something else altogether. This year, for us, it signifies a different kind of event. This summer’s Independence Day will truly be a celebration of a new kind of freedom as we watch our two daughters, now both in high school, break free from the traditions they’ve known with us and really start exploring their own independence.
Not that they haven’t been independent up to now, but add a car, a license, and a debit card to the mix and now you have a game-changer. Now our girls have the unique ability to come and go as they please. To make their own plans (within reason) and make plans independent of us. Which, if you connect all the dots properly, means it allows us to make plans independent of them. You tell me that’s not an Independence Day worth celebrating?!
For those of us with kids reaching an age of independence this summer, this year’s Independence Day is also a commemoration of the battles we’ve fought as parents up to this point. It’s a salute to all of the shrapnel we’ve taken along the way on the front lines of parenthood.
And while the war may be far from over, our children’s independence represents a new plateau from which to fight the next round of battles. It’s a place where our kids learn to fight a more civilized war. It’s higher ground from which to wage a smarter attack going forward. Because now if they don’t toe the line, they lose the car. See, wars are a game of strategy. And while they might be getting smarter, they’ll never be able to outsmart us.
So while historically July Fourth has been a celebration of the battles, both won and lost, that enabled us to assert our freedom as a nation, it’s also something different for many of us this summer. For many of us with kids reaching an age of independence, it’s also our Independence Day. It’s that time when we, as parents, get to reclaim some of our own independence.
That being said, it also means we have ourselves a new designated driver. And that alone is worth shooting off some fireworks. Happy July Fourth.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.