Thursday, July 4, 2013

Remembering the 4ths of July

July 4, 2002  Pick up trucks gather in circle in a large field.

It is nighttime and it is late, for dark comes late to this northern preserve.

We have joined people of the Blackfoot Nation who gather in their own local celebration of this national day of revolution remembering.  They too, I am surprised to know, celebrate and do so with the same fireworks I know so well from back east.

The fireworks are set off by the volunteer fire department in the middle of the large circle of trucks as children run and play and elders sit and watch from their lawn chairs.

We are all huddled with heavy coats and scarves – this is July, this is Montana and we are on the Blackfeet Reservation, which surrounds Many Glacier Park where we spend our summer.

We are welcomed into the circle with smiles.


July 4, Adulthood   The family gathers itself up and heads to the City Park to lay on the grass and watch fireworks.  Year in, year out, it is the same, with only the changes in the kids marking the passage of time.  Then there was the year when one of the rockets didn’t go quite high enough and debris rained down on us – trust breached, that was the end of the trek to City Park.


July 4, Childhood   It was only once, I think – mostly inferred from my mother’s telling of the story – that we went into the District and observed the fireworks on the mall lawn with many thousands of our neighbors.  I think I was 5.  I remember lying in the grass.  I remember being impatient.  I remember the ooohs and aaaahs of the light show in the sky.  I remember feeling safe.  I remember not being afraid of the night.  I guess it took us hours to get there and back, but I don’t remember that part.  What I remember is the magic.  Childhood blessing.


I love fireworks.  I have seen them from above in an airplane over Turkey.  I have seen them in my aunt’s back yard and at the drive-in movies and at the Jersey shore.  And somehow, it is the fireworks that most symbolize July 4th to me – and it’s not the rockets’ red glare I call to mind, but the people I was with, the night skies I witnessed, the grass I smelled, the family I carry with me always.  Maybe that’s what country is, when you get right down to it.

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