Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, USA!

Finding a way to incorporate ghosts into the celebration of our country's birthday can be a stretch, even for someone like me. I was going to do a piece about all the ghosts from that period that haunt Philadelphia, and according to Dennis William Hauck's Haunted Places (The National Directory), there are quite a lot of them, from a headless Revolutionary War soldier who gallops down Allen's Lane with his severed head next to his saddle to the consortium of spirits who haunt General Wayne Inn. There are a lot of other haunted locations in between. And we probably don't even need to discuss how many historical figures are apparently running rampant in Washington, D.C. long after the end of their living years.

But maybe just for today, I'll write about the 4th of July instead. I asked my husband what he thinks of when I say "4th of July" and his response was "fireworks." We have some standing traditions that no one even questions anymore when it comes to the 4th: fireworks, barbecues, apple pie, watermelon. I think my favorite is fireworks.

My family takes a trip north to Door County and enjoys the fireworks display at Gills Rock, a village at the tip of the peninsula. The Gills Rock fireworks show has become more and more popular over the years, and includes a band, food and drinnk vendors, and the venerated tradition of parking your lawn chair or blanket in the parking lot or along the dock hours before the show will be held, because Gills Rock's fireworks are done over the water, fired off from a barge that is the property of a long-established family.

When the sun goes down over Green Bay and the first rocket shoots up, something like a sigh of both expectation and contentment runs through the crowd. Showers of blue and silver, white and red, orange and green light up the night sky, and when the weather is particularly clear, we can see answering cascades of fiery colored sparks from towns far across the water.

The display doesn't last much longer than half an hour, if even that. For a fireworks fiend like me, there is no such thing as a 4th of July fireworks show going on too long. But for those thirty minutes or so, everyone sitting there in the summer night is united in good cheer and cameraderie, slapping at mosquitoes, letting the little ones nestle in our laps, oooh-ing each new explosion of light and applauding like mad at the finale. Celebrations don't get much better than that.

Happy Birthday, USA.

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