I love the fourth of July. As far as holidays go, it’s my hands-down favorite. There’s no obligatory gift giving, no stressful family meals, no cards to be exchanged, no mile long to-do lists. It’s just beach, barbeque, booze and fire works. And really, what could be better than that?
Being that my oldest is at the age where she wants to know everything about EVERYTHING, we spent a good part of the day talking about the American Revolution, about how it’s worth celebrating the fact that our country is free, and about how the fireworks are supposed to remind us of the bombs bursting in the air, like in the song we sing at Dodger games. And my daughter, being the eager to please, earnest child that she is, announced, on the way home from the beach: Mommy, I’m glad we live in America .
It gave me pause.
Admittedly, this is not the greatest of times for the ‘ole U.S. of A. The economy is tanking, gas prices are spiking, jobs are disappearing. Public education is a mess, public health care is a distant dream, and the environment is eroding by the day. Our students have fallen behind, our industries are being outsourced, our cars can’t compete. Half of the world hates us, and the other half thinks we’re a joke. Being an American has lost its cache, and as a nation, we seem to be mourning what we used to be. A once- famous child star. A superpower has-been.
And yet…there’s still nowhere else I would rather live. Sure, I could have state subsidized health care in Canada. But would I have Tofurkey? I could have a year’s paid maternity leave in Italy , but would I have a radio station devoted to classic rock? I could have a free college education in England , but would my kids have ‘80s day at summer camp? No, no, and no. The rest of the world can put us down all they want, but there are still some things that Americans do better than everyone else.
For our fourth of July, we spent the whole day at the beach with some friends; we drank margaritas, we played with the kids in the ocean, and we pigged out on hot dogs, ice cream and watermelon. At eight o’clock, we got the kids ready for bed, and then headed off to a park down the street, where there’s a perfect view of the fireworks put on by a nearby country club. We do this every July 4th, and over the years, it’s turned into an awesome little block party. The best part is that we have friends who belong to the country club that puts on the fireworks show. They could be over there – eating steak and lobster from the buffet, dancing to a band playing from the fourteenth hole – but they prefer the moocher side of the fence, where we drink sangria from flasks, pass brownies and cookies up and down the row of blankets spread out on the grass, and laugh as the kids run around like maniacs, dressed in their pajamas. As we drank and ate and laughed, I wondered, where else in the world could something like this possibly take place?
At the end of the night, when the fireworks were nothing but smoky negatives against the dark sky, when the kids were crashing from their sugar highs, when we were all wiped out from a long, fun day, I tucked Harper into her bed, and whispered in her ear. I’m glad I live in America , too, I told her. She smiled, her eyes already half-closed, and then she rolled over, and she went to sleep.