Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fireworks and Flags

Escape. With the 4th of July looming, and knowing what happens at the beach on this most boisterous of holidays the big thought in mind was GET AWAY! Lucky me to have a sister with a big inviting house only fifty miles away and happy to have a brother visiting for a few days. The holiday build up was under way all day Friday, people streaming in for a four-day weekend in the sun and surf, their cars loaded with children, boogie boards, beach gazebos and big bags of out of state fireworks. Driving west toward my sister’s house, the eastbound lane of the interstate was thick with cars headed for the beach. Think I got out just in time.

July 4, 2010 was a first experience of the holiday crowds, and while fireworks bursting into a myriad of pink, green, blue and red flowers over the ocean are beautiful to see, it all wears a bit thin over the stretch of days. The M-80 and Roman candle explosions begin five or six days before the 4th, rules for suggested behavior are soon ignored, the drinks flow and the parties get rowdy. Before you know it, beer soaked college boys are throwing chairs in the pool and firecrackers off of balconies. Once was enough.

Three days in town will provide plenty of time to browse the bookstores, the Apple Store, and look through the offerings of a few Park Avenue shops. Worth it if I do no more than get another bottle of that heavenly balsamic vinegar from Williams-Sonoma. A few restaurants to stop in, a favorite hamburger spot, and a chance to pick through the stacks at a CD store.

But back to the holiday, thoughts turn to what I’ve come to think of as the average American’s approach to Independence Day, the exuberance of so many to offer flag waving proof of their patriotic loyalty, the display of red, white and blue on every lawn, and very often on cars with flags enough for diplomats. It’s much like the Mary Jo Salter poem “Au Pair” which opens:

The first thing she’d noticed, as they sat her down for lunch
by the picture window, was flags all doing a dance
in front of houses: was today a holiday?
No, they said smiling, it’s just the American way,
and she couldn’t help reflecting that in France
nobody needed reminding they were French…

Like the girl in the poem, my years in Japan have left me with a similar confusion, reminding me of one who quotes scripture as a way of verifying Christian belief. If it’s really inside no badge is necessary.

As if they didn’t already have enough trouble with outrageously dressed customers, the local Walmart is sponsoring a 4th of July patriotic dress-up day on Monday, inviting customers to vie for the best red, white and blue costume. Can we look forward to some of those contestants being a part of the next Walmart People series?

The photograph at the top is a cozy shot of the den here in town, the one below it my mother and father’s old bed from our childhood home in Louisiana. Good sleep last night.


  1. Oh, there'll be fireworks on the levee downtown booming upward from the barges in the Mis'sip'pi river, and a mass of people braving deadly tempertures. Of course, 4 years ago some argument (gang related perhaps) exploded into gunshots and two bystanders were crippled for life. Naturally attendance was down after that. Lots of police presence since then. Too bad violence is such a part of the American fabric.

  2. Nice pictures of Mama and Daddy's bed and of our family room. It's good that you could get out of the melee of holiday people at the beach. We'll have a few fire crackers go off here, but certainly not to the extent of those partying at the beach.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America