Our family takes July Fourth pretty seriously. But we have always done Independence Day a little differently than the average family.
When my husband and I were engaged, he received a call from his family with a request. He looked at me doubtfully before hanging up the phone and told them that he would run it by me to see if it was a possibility.
He wasted no time and cut to the chase. How would I feel about taking a few days off work to help his family out over the Fourth of July?
“Help them do what?” I asked, skeptically.
Well, his family has been in charge of shooting several professional fireworks shows in New Mexico for years and they had one show that was short-staffed. They were asking if we would be willing to be that staff.
Him: They would cover our gas, and lodging…but it would be doing pretty serious manual labor. In the desert. In July. Oh, and pretty much for free…
Me: Wait, so you are telling me that we will be shooting fireworks? Like actually shooting them off? REAL ones? Not the kind you get from those little shacks alongside the road, but REAL ones?
Him: Well, yeah…
And that is how it started.
The year after, we were given our “own” show in Grants, New Mexico, and for years that was our family’s only vacation together. One of the only “traditions” we stuck to.
I mean, we were poor. And that was essentially our version of a paid vacation.
But it was invigorating.
There was something about un-plugging. Getting out of town. Sweating. Getting dirty. Being sore and exhausted.
We brought on friends and family as our help during those years. We even had a few who came back and helped the following year.
And my kiddos.
We were in Grants in both 2012 and 2014 when I was pregnant with my girls. My parents started meeting us there in 2013 and my mom watched my daughter while we worked.
As the girls got older, we spent our spare moments in the hotel pool. Hotel lobby breakfasts. Crockpot meals in the room. We made makeshift sleeping arrangements; I am pretty sure my youngest slept in the bathtub one year because it was the only way we could keep the room dark and somewhat quiet.
It was a time of reflection for us.
A time to remember what we had been blessed with and why. A chance to revisit patriotism and ruminate on gratefulness. It gave us a chance to re-set for the next year.
And it provided us the opportunity to have that conversation with our girls as well. Granted, we generally got to have that conversation throughout the week and then punctuate it at the end with a literal bang.
Talk about punctuating the point.
I tell you what – there is nothing like watching fireworks from right underneath them. (Except maybe watching my kids watch fireworks; but that would be a completely different blog.)
Maybe it is the watching 22+ hours of blood and sweat equity go up in about 22 minutes. Maybe it is knowing that there is an entire city of people who have been waiting hours for this very moment. Maybe it is hearing their hoots and hollers from that very same crowd when it is all over; knowing that you worked HARD for their joy.
I used to think that for us it is knowing that it was another good year with a safe show, enjoyed by the masses.
But it is more than that.
It is a day when we all come together.
Race, creed, or color; it is a celebration of a nation that has given us the opportunity to be any one of those things and so much more. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” more specifically, as taken from our very own Declaration of Independence.
For us, it is not about the work that goes into that week in preparing for one night. It is about the blood, sweat and tears that make up this life that we are all doing together.
And, more importantly, it is about doing it together.
We have been stretched as a nation lately; my hope is that we can take all that has happened in this last year and use it as a tie that can bind us together instead of a wedge separating us further.
I hope that this year, July Fourth can be a time to come together. That it will be a source of joy and a time for reflection.
And make sure to cheer for your fireworks crews – they have had you in mind all week preparing for that one moment of togetherness.