Four Things to Love About the Fourth

I have had a life-long love affair with the Fourth of July. In keeping with my quest to look under the rocks and peer into all the dark nooks and crannies of my soul, this year it made sense to figure out just what it is about this holiday that makes me all giddy like.

Here is what I have surmised:

Number 1: It’s the opposite of Christmas

Listen, it’s not that I don’t care (slightly) for Christmas, but I do love that the Fourth is absolutely, fantastically its opposite.

To me, Christmas has turned into the a mother of all consumeristic holidays. A time of the year filled with messages of, “only X more shopping days until…” and thoughts of, “ahhh, won’t my son cherish the memory of yet another video game.” Not to mention bucket loads of self-doubt such as, “will this be exactly the right tablecloth to convey the ‘best holiday meal you have ever tasted’ or would the one on page 35 of Martha Stewart’s holiday issue better convince the family of my love for them.” It is a holiday filled with expectations, impeccably detailed plans and perfectly gift-wrapped expressions of love. Then there is the religious significance part…I am still working through my thoughts on this one.

The thing I love most about Christmas – oodles of family. Flip the coin…

The Fourth is oodles of family, but with no pretense. This is the kind of holiday where you can eat BBQ on a paper plate sitting on your lap with a cold beer in a truck-stop koozie while everyone is running around barefooted and enjoying it to the max.

Perfect Christmas tree all nicely appointed or a wild, Texas thicket. No contest for me folks.

The Fourth has less consumerism, in comparison that is (this is after all the USA folks). And sure, Martha Stewart still gets in on the action with the flag cakes made of delicious berries or some suspiciously perfect trifle with all the right colors. But she can’t own this day – no sir-ree-bob. Because you don’t prepare for the Fourth, you live it fully. Oh, and the religious part of the Fourth is the religion of America.

Which takes me to my next point…

Number 2: Unbridled, unapologetic patriotism

A – M – E – R – I – C – A

I have always been patriotic. I know, I know, nationalism can have its ugly side, but it is so great to love your country. Stand together for something – a shared story. On this day, it even seems like the two sides of the political debate are silenced just long enough to enjoy a moment of solidarity (even if it is just a moment). A day when you remember the things that make this country somewhere that others risk their lives to come to and whose bounty we often sadly take for granted. We spend time writing letters to our soldiers, re-enacting scenes from the past and decorating bicycles of all shapes and sizes for a brief, but soul-filling homemade parade.

And the flags, so many flags. Hanging, draping, flying – flags every which way.

Yep, there is Old Glory

You see people even walking around wearing all kinds of flag-y stuff – t-shirts, hats, flip-flops, bikinis – the list goes on. I don’t know if this is what our forefathers had in mind, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun. Try and count how many pieces of flag-y apparel you see today, it will blow your mind.

Then there is patriotic music – my personal favorite America the Beautiful. Come on, it has my name in it – Amber waves of grain. How could I not love it?

This day’s unbridled, unapologetic display of patriotism makes my heart go pitter-patter. However, I am still hoping that one day I will see an Uncle Sam in a Speedo.

Thinking of that Speedo-clad gentleman takes me to my next point…

Number 3: Insane, mind-numbing heat

It is Texas folks which means that this ain’t your average summer heat, this here is a mind-altering, sloth-inducing kind of heat. You can’t fight it, you can only surrender to it (and properly hydrate). Relish in the insanity and find the nearest body of water, water hose or substitute wet something or other. One way to hydrate is to consume large amounts of watermelon. During the face-melting Fourths of my youth, we would have contests with the small remnants of summer watermelon consumption – the seeds. Whatever happened to watermelon with seeds, anyway? Why are they all so perfect and seedless. There is no challenge in this.

Look at these specimens, there is no contest to be had here. Just perfect red with no seed in sight. Absolutely boring.

And while one sits with the water hose eating that overpriced, perfect melon there is a symphony playing just when the day is at its hottest. The cicadas create magic in the trees which echos all around you. This is one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard.

Beautiful sounds take me to my next point…

Number 4: Illegal pyrotechnics

Sure there are the legal fireworks displays where you can listen to Proud to be an American with a little tear in your eye, but the real fun starts when you get home and blaze up a little illegal pyrotechnics show of your own.

This is my Dad and there is probably a burn ban in effect thereby enhancing the fun. Light that little sucker and run like hell.

During this part of the Fourth of July program you can often hear things like, “here, hold my beer” or “crap, who called the cops.” I have lit my fair share of illegal fireworks in my day and hope to do more in the future – smoke bombs, Roman candles, volcanos of doom and perfectly simple strings of Black Cats. All this illegal fun I happily admit to, however, would someone please tell the idiots that shoot the guns in the air about the basics of gravity? ‘Cause that level of stupid is just Un-American.

Well, that’s it folks. I have successfully unlocked the secret to my love for the Fourth. Finally and most importantly, to all of the men and women who have and now serve this great land, I cannot adequately express my gratitude and appreciation.

So, Yankee Doodle, my country ’tis of thee and the rockets red glare.

God Bless the U.S.A.

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