By Tobi Schwartz-Cassell
I love America with all my heart, and consider myself very patriotic. I am indebted to my grandparents who came and settled here because of the freedom and beauty we enjoy. The freedom that our veterans—then and now—have secured for us. And the freedoms that many living in other countries, are profoundly lacking.
I am grateful for my liberty every day, but on the 4th of July, I am even more grateful because I get a sense that we’re all in it together. That wherever you go, you see flags; red, white and blue banners, and decorations. It truly makes my heart swell.
I was a patriotic child, too. But I experienced dread and extreme discomfort surrounding the 4th of July. The discomfort was never based in disloyalty, but in fear.
My parents always took my sister Molly and I to the fireworks on Independence Day, and every year, my trepidation grew. The noises scared me badly, especially when the booms would pound through my body. I was also frightened by the large crowds. To be perfectly honest, I could never understand what the appeal of the fireworks was.
On one 4th of July in particular, already rattled from the evening’s “festivities,” we arrived home, and as I mounted the front steps, a firecracker exploded at my feet. That was it for me. No more fireworks.
My family would still go to the fireworks every year, but my parents allowed me to stay safely in the car and watch from the windows with my fingers in my ears. They and my sister were stationed outside the car, guarding me, and enjoying the display.
When I was a teen, I’d go with my friends to the fireworks because that’s what you did on the 4th of July. I considered myself lucky that the explosives were launched after dark—and that my friends were mesmerized by what they were watching in the sky. It meant they weren’t paying attention to me, knees tightly locked to my chest, and fingers in my ears. What was it about those damned fireworks that everyone loved so much?
Every year, I dreaded the 4th of July.
Then I met this really nice guy named Stan who eventually became my husband. God truly does work in mysterious ways, because Stan LOVES the 4th of July more than anyone I know, and more than any other holiday. He LIVES for fireworks. His birthday is July 7, and he considers the 4th his own personal kickoff day. Case in point, back in the early 70s, his family lived in California where the sale of fireworks were legal. His fondest memory of his Bar Mitzvah is that his parents purchased and set off fireworks to celebrate.
So there I was again, going to see the fireworks on the 4th of July, while everyone was in the best mood, and I was freaked out (but had to appear as if I was holding it all together). While we were watching, my fingers firmly in my ears, Stan would shout out to me what he was seeing. He told me about the reds, the purples and the blues and the yellows that he was seeing. I found that to be fascinating! He really saw all those colors?
And there it was.
I finally understood. People go to fireworks to see the beautiful colors, in addition to the formations, in the sky. As a woman who was born colorblind, I never realized that fireworks were colorful. NOW it all made sense. That’s why the people who come, put up with the noise and the crowds.
After that night, I gave myself permission to never have to go to a fireworks display again. Ever.
And now, no matter how or where we celebrate the 4th of July, it is my pleasure to hustle everyone out of my house (or hustle home if I’m at someone else’s house) and watch Stan and whomever accompanies him, go off to see the fireworks.
I crank up the air conditioning, scoop the ice cream, turn on the TV, and snuggle with my pets. It is my personal time and I get to do whatever I want. And most importantly, I don’t have to be subjected to deafening noises and celebratory crowds.
And now, I’m not just in awe of this holiday, I finally can say that I love it.
And now I understand what the fuss with fall leaves is all about. But that’s another story for another day…
PS: What’s your favorite holiday, and why? Is there a holiday you don’t like? I’d love to hear about it, so please comment below.