Feeling Festive on the Fourth


Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”  —Erma Bombeck

Assuming you’ve all had time to digest and burn off those patriotic helpings of hot dogs and Big Gulp buckets of beer (or cosmopolitans, in my case), and have seen enough fireworks sparkling up the sky to sate that appetite for another year, I’d like to reflect on why July Fourth is such a rockin’ holiday.

1. It makes me proud to be an American.

The Fourth of July is the one day of the year when I’m guaranteed to get a little bit verklempt about being an American. Sure it’s easy to get choked up at the ballot box on Election Day, but the results often make me want to gag. Where else but the Montecito Village Fourth Parade can you see the entire Taran Family dressed up like hot dogs, hamburgers, condiments, and Samuel Adams Beer? It’s not like they can repeat that ensemble for the Solstice Parade. They’d have to reinterpret with a tofu dog and veggie burger.

2. It makes me feel like an American…while I’m actually here.

Whether my sister and I are being stalked for photos like celebrities in Japan–because of our superior height, which is merely “kinda tall” over here–or marveling at the Balinese natives’ familiarity with George Bush–while the average U.S. high school student knows more about Paris Hilton’s latest bikini wax–I never feel more American than when I travel to another country. Maybe its that old adage about absence making the heart grow fonder kicking in, but in general, I feel much more patriotic when I’ve got a little distance between me and the good old U.S. of A.

3. I get to dress up like a dork.

If I had the hot dog outfit, I might actually wear it–that’s how much fun it is to dress up on this particular holiday. Unlike Halloween, where it’s expected, on the Fourth of July you can get big party points just for showing up in a star spangled outfit. Bonus points for a flag painted on your cheek, or a t-shirt that says, “Uncle Sam Wants You … To Have Another Beer.” Don’t get me started on my MLK Day costume plans.

4. I get to play with matches.

Nothing gets you in touch with your inner pyromaniac like the Fourth of July. There’s the inescapable lure of fireworks, both the big booming ones that shoot from the sky, and the cute little sparklers, whistling Pete’s and poppers that even my six-year-old likes to play with. I swear they invented sparklers so kids would have something to do on the Fourth of July while the adults are getting drunk and overeating. It’s like there’s a race to see who’ll lose a finger first: the kids with their firecrackers, or my husband when he doesn’t move his fork out of the chocolate cake fast enough. Personally, I like to reuse the sparklers to roast marshmallows, thus satisfying my needs to feel environmentally superior, play with fire, and replenish my sugar supply every hour on the hour.

Then there’s the highly amusing, and mostly masculine mania to stare at whatever’s cooking on the barbecue. My father’s newest gas-powered acquisition allowed me to eavesdrop on such conversational ditties as, “How many minutes do saber tooth tiger steaks have to cook on each side? I’m not sure. Let me check my GPS. How do you turn this thing on? I’m not sure. Let me check the Internet.” You go, grill.

5. The Fourth of July is when it really starts to feel like summer.

You can’t go to work that day, it would be un-American. Besides there are fires to be lit and drinks to be drunk. The Fourth is when laziness finally finds respectability, which is what makes a great holiday in my book.

With no holidays in sight, it looks like Leslie will be laboring away till Labor Day. Make her day by dropping a line to email.  Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound.

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