This weekend, we celebrate our nation's independence from Britain. It seems strange that right now some in Britain are celebrating their independence from the European Union, while others are mourning the same. No doubt there wer colonists who were not in favor of splitting from the British and forming our own country.
I had a poem and a personal essay published in an anthology titled A Quilt of Holidays in 2012. Both address our Fourth of July holiday. The essay may trigger memories of your own.
Independence Day In
Come back with me to the1940’s era in
Chicago. During the first few days of July,
my younger brothers and I walked to the neighborhood Woolworth’s store to buy a
very important item for our Fourth of July celebration. We had to make our
purchase no later than July 3rd, for all businesses closed on
We walked on the creaky wooden floor, smelling the penny candy lined up in glass cases near the front door. Straight to the back of the long aisle, we found rolls and rolls of colored crepe paper--red, white, and blue, of course. We bought several rolls with money we’d saved. Once home, we stashed our purchase for the next day.
The first thing after breakfast on the Fourth of July, we clambered down the three flights of stairs from our top floor apartment to the basement where our bikes were kept. Bump, bump, bump—up the steps from basement to courtyard we went with our two wheeled bikes. Down went the kickstands, and out came the rolls of crepe paper to decorate. We wove the colored streamers in and out of the wheel spokes, and fastened more on the handle-bars, then stepped back to see which looked best. Decorating our bikes for
America’s holiday left an indelible
impression of patriotism in us.
Other kids in our building worked on bikes, too. We rode all over the neighborhood, up and down alleys and sidewalks showing off our fancy bikes, not caring how high the temperature might be.
We spent the rest of the day like any other hot, sultry summer day. We ate popsicles to cool off, walked to the park where families sat on the lawn with picnic lunches and waited for the sun to go down. Dad had gone out earlier to one of the only businesses open—the fireworks stand. Money was usually scarce in our family, but Dad always found some extra to buy firecrackers and sparklers for us. No doubt, he enjoyed them as much as we did.
Darkness finally descended over our city, and once again, we hurried down the three flights of stairs. Not just kids this time, but our whole family. We gathered in the alley beyond the apartment courtyard along with several other families. Only Dad lit our firecrackers, although I’m sure my brothers wanted to try it. One I loved was a pinwheel which Dad stuck into a telephone pole. When he lit the fuse, the entire thing whirled round and round, throwing sparks in every direction. Little firecrackers on the ground did nothing but make popping noises, but the Roman candles gave us the real show. Big noise and showers of colorful sparks which delighted us. And finally, Dad lit sparklers we held. I loved whirling them round and round, watching the designs the sparks made. All too soon, they burned down to the end and we rushed to get another until the boxes were emptied.
We knew why we decorated our bikes, why people went on picnics and why we had fireworks on the Fourth of July. Our parents talked to us every year about what it meant to have
and how a war several years before was fought and won to ensure that we lived with
freedoms like few other nations. We grew up knowing there was a serious side to
the holiday. Even so, it was a special day we looked forward to every summer.
Fourth of July Parade
Celebrate the red, white and blue.
On this day, keep it in all you do.
Blow the bugle and beat the drums,
march proudly wherever you’re from.
Remember the patriots who steadfastly tried,
and all those souls who readily died.
Scores perished so that we may be free
to worship God, not king, on bended knee.
Carry the flag proudly this exceptional day.
“I’m an American” you can happily say.
Move on with a steady step and head held high.
Let your heart swell as you look to the sky.
This is our Independence Day celebration—
the annual birthday of, this, our own great nation.
--Nancy Julien Kopp