I’m not an especially patriotic person. I stand for the national anthem, but I don’t own any flags or flag related apparel. I love living in the United States, but I don’t buy into the idea that it’s the best place to live or excels in every area.
The stats show us it’s not. We spend more for lower quality healthcare than other wealthy countries. My own state of New Mexico has serious problems feeding and educating our children.
Still, the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays.
I grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, a stone’s throw from the U.S., Mexico border and a place chock full of retirees and roadrunners.
The city shot off fireworks a few blocks from my house, so we’d sit in lawn chairs in the backyard and watch fireworks explode overhead. They filled the whole sky and the boom reverberated in my chest.
Every year at the start of the show, I’d think, they can’t possibly get bigger or louder than they are now. And I’d be a little let down, because in my memory the fireworks were bigger and louder. Then they did get bigger and louder until there was no way to escape the sight and sound of them.
We always invited friends over to share in our backyard firework watching. It was a hodgepodge of people: church friends, my parents coworkers, close family friends who never failed to bring a crock pot of creamy mac n’ cheese. As my brother and I grew older there were more teenagers and less church goers. Various boyfriends and girlfriends. Aunts and uncles. Band friends.
My first kiss was on the 4th of July when I was fourteen. It was a sweet kiss and a pretty innocent one with a boy from Montana (or Wyoming? I don’t remember), with blond hair and a ridiculous concept of himself as some kind of modern day John Wayne. His grandma went to church with us and he was staying with her for the summer. I never saw him again, which I think is for the best.
Last year I had the worst July 4th of my life. I had two jobs at the time, one for my school paper and one as a sales representative at Target. I worked the closing shift at Target, 5 to 11 (or 12 or 1 if it was a busy Friday night).
I was stuck working at Target on the 4th. We had a tiny team, and approximately nine customers the entire night. It felt ridiculous to be open. I could hear city fireworks going off outside, but there were no windows to watch them through. Only fluorescent lights and endless piles of shirts to fold.
I don’t know what I’ll be doing this year. I don’t think any 4th of July will ever measure up to the fireworks and macaroni of my memory, but at least I won’t be sorting shoes.