Theresa Wilson is Bon Voyage’s resident Yankee Doodle Dandy. Here she shares her perspective on the Fourth of July holiday……..
Happy Birthday, America!
I’ve now lived in England for 25 years and have fully embraced my adopted country. But if there is one time I really do long to be home it’s the first part of July and all of the Fourth celebrations.
On the whole, Americans are a patriotic bunch – we fly flags from our front porches; we thank our military for their service; we wear eagle and flag embossed clothing year-round, but give us a holiday where the entire point is patriotism and stand back. Parades, fireworks, family gatherings, BBQs, picnics, baseball – God Bless America!
It’s a tough one for those of us split between two countries. On one hand, we’re celebrating the birth of a nation – on the other, we’re celebrating freedom from British rule. I have a British husband, so you can imagine the jokes that fly around our family! But I believe that both countries have huge amounts of respect and interest in each other. Back in 1776, it was time to end the American Revolution and let the original colonies be independent. Although the war went on for another seven years, on July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence from Great Britain’s rule. The Declaration of Independence was ratified on the fourth. There is some historical debate on whether that is true, but no alternate theories here – the 4th of July is America’s Independence Day!
As a child, it represented the first big weekend of summer. Schools typically break up in the USA between the end of May and mid-June, so summer activities were in full flow, but everything stopped for the 4th of July. Depending on when it fell, either the weekend before or after would be packed with family fun. We were always involved with the local parade which included the whole community. If you weren’t in the parade you lined the street waving flags, hoping to grab a treat that might be thrown from a marcher! Then it was on to a good old family style BBQ. Burgers, hotdogs and corn on the cob straight off the grill. I honestly dream about that corn – fresh from Midwest fields, dripping in butter. It’s as much a part of my Fourth of July as waving flags and sparklers!
This brings me to evening events. We’d all gather at the appointed family members’ home for an evening of backyard games, more food and ultimately fireworks. Invariably, we’d fire a few rounds of our own that an uncle brought from a local stand while all the kids always ran around the garden with lighted sticks actively spewing sparks. Of course, one of us would either be afraid and drop the ignited stick on the ground or get burned while the adults continued lighting roman candles and keeping fingers crossed that nothing flew over the neighbour’s fence! It was the 1970s, so don’t judge! Then it was time for proper pyrotechnics! Some years we’d watch local displays from the comfort of our own lounge chairs in the yard. Other years, we braved traffic and crowds for an amazing vantage point along Lake Michigan.
In my adult years, our family would undertake a huge reunion every other Fourth of July and religiously those of us who no longer resided in Wisconsin would flock home. Ultimately, the Fourth of July is as much about celebrating family and friends and summer as it is about celebrating America’s birthday. Don’t get me wrong – there is always a red, white and blue cake, but it’s more than just being American – it’s about the people we love, what we appreciate about living in a democracy and what we are thankful for. That’s Thanksgiving too, but one holiday at a time! The funny thing is – every American I know loves all things British. The Queen, Buckingham Palace, the accents, the pomp and circumstance…the list goes on. The more I think about it, the more I realise – the Fourth of July today has very little to do with celebrating our break from Britain and more to do with bringing a nation together to honour where we came from and think about where we’re going. Like any country, we’ve got our issues, but hopefully we’ll reflect, regroup and re-emerge stronger than ever.
I know I will be with my family in spirit and chances are I will wear stars and stripes to the office on the 4th. You can take the girl out of America…..