As far back as I can remember my family would attend our small towns, fourth of July parade. We would go to my grandparents' house in the early afternoon house and maybe have lunch. Someone would normally then volunteer to stake out our spots along the parade route. Typically it was my grandfather and sometimes it would be my mom and/or dad and accompanied by my uncle and myself because we enjoyed people watching as much as the next person. The prime position for observing the parade were along the park and if you lost out on a good spot you were out of luck. We would drive as close as we could to the location and then start carrying everything else. We would find our spot, hopefully in the shade but always no more than a few feet from the road. Despite the heat and humidity on numerous occasions we braved the conditions, lay out our blanket, prop up our "directors chairs", open up the cooler full of drinks and enjoyed the celebration. Marking the beginning of the parade was always a loud boom from a firework which was no more than a mile away which made it seem so loud. Then it was was not long until you saw the emergency vehicles. Fire trucks and police cars would fill the streets with their sirens and lights. As floats would start go by the children, including myself, were looking for the groups that threw out free stuff. Candy was always the most popular giveaway, I had so much it seemed like Halloween came early this year. Various floats would continue to sail by from local businesses and organizations. We would see marching bands, old tractors (which was always our families favorite), Shriner's, and everything else you would expect from a classic Midwest fourth of July parade. Every float and individual was sporting red, white, and blue everywhere. American flags were draped over every possible location one would fit. As the parade ended things were gathered up and it was off to my grandparents house where dinner would begin.
It always seemed like half the dinner was ready when we got there but so much more work was still needed to be done. The grill would be fired up, charcoal of course, my mom and grandma would be preparing every possible dish that you could imagine, limited only by the amount of room in the fridge and oven and sometimes even that was not a boundary. My plate was never big enough but I never felt shy about going up again. If you were one that can not handle your food touching this was not the meal for you. Homemade ice cream would not be far behind. Spinning round and round and as loud as can be the ice cream machine I knew would be turning out its amazing desert and at moment. There was definitely nothing better to end the warm evening on then that delectable treat. As visiting with family and laughing at something my uncle said would continue, dusk would be upon us soon and plans to see the fireworks would start. Blankets and chairs were gathered again and the caravan of cars would start to leave.
A group of people would leave first with then intention of saving our spot. The kids would always go in that group. Sparklers were always in tow and ready to be lite once we got there to occupy our time. The second and/or third cars would include everyone else ready to enjoy the amazing light display. We always would pick the same place, a slight hill along the road right between the middle school and high school. I always remember how I never understood why so few people would choose this fantastic spot. Then it began. One almost had to lie down in order to properly view the show. Explosion after explosion of bright colors and loud sounds. We were never in position to see the ground show that you knew people in the park could see but it did not matter we were enjoying every minute of it. Then it would happen, the finale. Where every firework is shot off at what seems the same moment. The sky is so full that night becomes day in a sea of reds, whites, and blues. The sound is nearly deafening. You can not hear anything else going on around you to the point it almost feels like you're the only one watching. Then silence.
Every moment of this day is in celebration of the freedom and liberty we have in this wonderful country. We celebrate because we are proud of our heritage, we are proud of our independence. It may not always be remembered and talked about at every moment throughout the day but it was always recalled clearly in my father's prayer right before dinner. My father would eloquently thank God for the independence our country has and the opportunity we as citizens were given to live here. We would pray for our men and women in uniform and the sacrifice they have given to defend our liberties. And finally he would pray for our leaders and the wisdom in leading this country and the decisions they would make to guide us into the future. This quickly reminded us all of the reason we were gathering this day. It was not just to come together as a family, but to celebrate our independence as a country, as Americans.