I don’t have many traditions in my life. Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Easter, New Year’s, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Halloween… all of these events look different for me from one year to the next. And for the most part, this lack of consistency is okay. It’s good for me to not get stuck in routines and ruts, so I generally don’t mind that I never quite know what the plan is for a given holiday. However, for the past decade, one holiday in my life has followed a predicable, reliable structure and cadence: The Fourth of July.
Each year for (American) Independence Day, my sweetie and I travel to his parents/ my in-laws home for an extended weekend. On the morning of the fourth, my sweetie, my mother-in-law, and I all walk to a park just outside of the small town, and participate in a 5K race. (My sweetie and my mother-in-law run the 3.1 miles; I used to run the event, but for the past several years I’ve turned to walking it.)
After the event we return to the house, stretch and shower, and eat lunch. Then in the early afternoon the entire crew (i.e., the three of us who participated in the race, as well as my father-in-law, and any other siblings-in-law/spouses/children who are staying for the weekend) walk a few blocks to one of the main streets in town to watch the parade.
The town’s parade is truly fantastic; it usually runs a full 90 minutes, and has absolutely everything a parade should have: a color guard, Shriner cars, clowns, a few bands, a group of baton twirlers, some dancers, numerous local townspeople promoting their small businesses, and lots and lots of candy and trinkets tossed to observers.
After the parade, our big group heads back to the house, we all have some dinner, and then we make our way to the lake. We enjoy an open-air band concert (that my mother-in-law plays in), then sit and chat for an hour or so while the sun sets and nightfall arrives. Once the sky is sufficiently dark, an amazing fireworks display begins. The pyrotechnics usually runs a full hour, and the last 10-15 minutes entail a nearly overwhelming assortment of huge, stunning, booming fireworks.
At the end of the night, as we return to the house one final time, I am exhausted, but so content. I adore spending the day engaged in a variety of activities, outside, with family that I genuinely enjoy. I also appreciate that this holiday celebrates a unity all people in this country can support; indeed, the small town that hosts this Fourth of July celebration feels even more closely-knit and inter-connected on this day than many others. And I really do love the predictable sequence of events that have formed to comprise this day. This is one tradition each year that I can count on. Following the same course on the race, sitting in the same spot for the parade, hearing the same music at the concert, enjoying the same sights and sensations as the fireworks scream and blast… at every turn, I find both my face and my heart smiling.
(If you are interested in learning more about my sister-in-law and her photography, you can check out her website, or her Facebook page [search for “Schrage-Photography]. She’s also starting a blog soon – on WordPress!) 🙂