Happy Independence Day: Share Your Favorite Memories of the Fourth

My favorite memory of the Fourth is probably the Bicentennial.

My late deceased departed and (by 2/3 majority vote) dead Daddy, a proud Southerner and low-grade politician (wanted to be a high grade politician but- too much insanity in his family and too liberal [actually, too practical] on racial issues in the Integration era) was a historian and occasional teacher/professor who actually placed a moratorium on July 4 celebrations for most of his life because it was the anniversary of the date in 1863 when 1) Lee limped away from Gettysburg and 2) Vicksburg surrendered in the south, thus sealing the Confederate doom at two ends of the nation. However, as he had always promised, the Bicentennial would be the year he would officially rejoin the nation and he would spend it in Philadelphia, and we did.

I was 9 years old, loved American history (and had the action figures), and it was fantastic. It was hot as hell, I think one in every three people alive seemed to be there that day, but it was absolutely great, the most patriotic day I can remember. There were street performers in Bicentennial garb, grown tourists walking unembarassedly in cheap tricorns, floats tossing special coins and beads (I still have a couple), performances from 1776 on the sidewalk, etc…

After a “hot as hell in Phil-a-del-phia” during the day the bottom fell out and soaked everybody who was outside late that afternoon. We were on our way to Christ Church, the Episcopal house of worship that the founders attended, and it was packed, though we noticed one pew in the middle that was empty so, five drowned rat Alabamians entered it and proceeded to figure out the sit-stand-kneel-squat Anglican aerobics others were doing. At some point we noticed eyes on us, and we noticed a plaque that said


which explained why it was empty. We thought perhaps we should move, but my mother said it best: “I don’t know one damned person in Philadelphia and I don’t care if they say a tacky wet tourist was in the president’s pew… I’m stayin’.”

We were joined by three other tourists before the end of the service.

Great day.

I have but vague memories of the Bicentennial 4th.

My nicest 4th in recent years was at the Mall in downtown DC. A friend and her family had gone out early to the Capitol lawn to establish territory with blankets, then phoned me so I could join them and bring them lunch. We had good seats for the show–a variety of musical numbers, some better than others, but the finale had Ray Charles singing “O Beautiful…” As he went into the second verse, the fireworks started. That moment alone was simply wonderful, and worth the whole day of sitting out in the hot sun.

This happened after several miserable experiences with fireworks on the Mall–which I won’t describe here–so I decided to quit while ahead and have not been back to the Mall on the 4th since. I’ll go to the local fireworks tonight.

My favorite was July 4, 1985: my family had been back in the states for 3-4 months, after a two-year stint in England. I was 13, and my mind was still filled with memories of seeing the Statue of Liberty during our return flight and how the sight nearly brought me to tears (of joy at being home). That 4th was very special to me, even as an adolescent, because I started to appreciate what it means to be an American.*
*I don’t mean that in a superior way, I just mean that I was finally able to grasp how being an American is different – not better or worse – than being any other nationality, instead of that concept being something I never thought about because I didn’t know anything else.

Seems like every 4th for about 15 years straight, from the time I was an undergrad through the 9 years out of school and including 2 as a grad student, we were at some Texas lake on a sailboat, barge or ski boat with close friends and lots of beverages. Year after year the venue would change but it was always the best holiday outing of the year. Good friends, lots of sun and no worries; a hard combination to beat.

I’ve almost always had fun on the Fourth, though the only one that really sticks out in my mind was the one I spent in London, in 1986.

On that particular day, I was taking a self-guided tour of some of the locations I had always wanted to visit and some of the locations my uncle recommended.

After wandering around the National Gallery for a while, I found myself outside, looking at Trafalgar Square. Suddenly I noticed a statue of George Washington!

“Well”, I thought to myself, “who better to spend a few minutes with on this day of all days, in this place of all places.”

So I sat down on the grass nearby and had a sandwich and a beer and toasted the late, great, Father of Our Country.

Oh my God – that was you?


My favorites had to be right around high school. You’d go downtown to watch the celebration on Cascade Plaza, and because Akron was the perfect size for this, you would bump into everyone you’d ever met while you were down there, chat for five minutes, and then move on. It was like the greatest cocktal party you’d ever see, and afterwards you got to lie in the grass and watch fireworks. (Props also have to be given to the 4th of July after my freshman year of college, but that’s mostly because I got a blow job while stuck in traffic on the drive home.)


Me, too, maybe because we didn’t do much of anything. We were still living in the old house, it was a lovely sunny day: me in the backyard refinishing my grandmother’s bookcase (I still have it in my bedroom); my father mowing the lawn; my mother picking Japanese beetles off the rosesbushes and pruning them (the rosebushes, that is).

Just a nice, quiet, Currier & Ives kind of day.

One year when I was in high school, my uncle was a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, and had a office up in the Palo Alto hills overlooking the bay. So for the 4th, we went up there, put on the 1812 overture REALLY loud on his kick ass speaker system, then went up on the roof where we could see multiple different fireworks displays, with the entire building shaking when the cannons went off.

I also was once on a plane on the 4th. Seeing fireworks from up above is really cool.