Patriotism Swells in the Heart of the American Bear

I just love this line from The Muppet Movie. It makes me giggle. And today as we sang "America, The Beautiful" in church I thought of this line as we sat. Because of all days of the year, the Fourth of July is all about ritual and celebration as a nation. It's one holiday that we - as an entire nation - celebrate together. It doesn't depend on religious affiliation or region or whether you say 'soda' or 'pop'. I know that our friends who are diplomats from other nations don't celebrate it but they'll hang out for Hot Dog diplomacy if you ask nicely.

The Fourth of July is also an essential part of our American story and story is one thing that sets us apart as humans. Other animals grieve and have rituals but they don't have stories. Humans have stories. How has the Fourth of July written itself into your family's story?

Several years after we'd been married and my mom had moved back to take care of her mother she confessed that of all the holidays this was the hardest to spend apart. You see we had a ritual for the day. It was almost identical each year. My brother and I both marched in a fife and drum corps and odds are if you went to any bicentennial celebrations from 1976 to the early 1980s you probably saw us. So, the day was spent in the parade in Fairfax, VA then home to bake brownies before we picked up our adopted Aunt and went to see the fireworks in Vienna, VA.

The brownies were key. They were Duncan Hines from the box. We made them together taking turns each time who got to lick the bowl or spoon. It's hard to mess up brownies. However there was one year - the year of the Exxon Valdez brownies - where my brother made them by himself in a glass dish and the brownies were very thin with the oil floating on the top. Ick. We laughed about it then and they became part of our family story.

Now, with my own family, we are still making our story. Yesterday the weather could not have been more perfect for July in Virginia. The sky was blue the sun was out and it was cool enough that one could be outside without turning into a sticky puddle of goo. We went to the farmer's market, then for the free admission day at the Botanical Garden, then to a friend's farm for a picnic and swimming. The only similarity to last year was that I baked brownies and we went to see the fireworks. This year, however, at the request of our friends I made Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies. I make these for EVENTS and not for every day because they take a pound of butter and something like 2 1/2 pounds of chocolate and require chilling in the fridge overnight. I usually prefer instant gratification with my brownies but these are awesome brownies.

For the fireworks we luck out every year because we live in the most awesome neighborhood ever. The city does the fireworks at the Carillon at Byrd Park and we live about 6 blocks away. We don't worry about traffic. We leave 20 minutes beforehand to find a good spot and we are home about 20 minutes after they are over. In fact, if there weren't any trees we could probably see the fireworks from the girls' bedroom

And today Comfort has been telling everyone with ears all about her Adventures yesterday. Even the Adventures we didn't get to. We didn't get to see the butterflies at the botanical gardens. The line was just too long for a family with two toddlers but we saw lots of pretty flowers and a turtle sunning itself in a pond and we enjoyed the Children's Garden before the meltdown hit and we carried a flailing Joy back to the parking lot. But the meltdowns are part of the story, too, just like stories from labor and delivery where there is pain and blood and hard choices. Life is real and we should remember it that way, too, sometimes.

So, I hope that you had a wonderful Fourth of July. I hope that you have a new story to tell, a rich story to tell, and I hope that there were brownies. Amen!


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