Here in the city of Vancouver, Washington, they still celebrate the 4th of July the old-fashioned way: They blow things up.
As I mentioned before, this is one of the big draws for us at this time of year. Mrs. Woody and I love sitting in our friends' cul-de-sac to witness a marvelous collection of shells, fountains, sparklers, and other assorted incendiaries light up the night sky. Had comet Tempel 1 flown immediately over the house, there would have been no possible chance of a sighting for all the fireworks going off in the immediate neighborhood. In my mind, the municipal display must have been somewhat redundant to the displays taking place 360 degrees around us.
The Woodyettes loved it all - at least, they loved the parts they didn't sleep through. Doodle fell asleep for good at least an hour before the show was over. Jelly, being now 8 years old, only dozed for a few minutes toward the end, but bounced back in time to witness the grand finale. Early on, though, the girls both did their sparklers (large and small), and helped Daddy light off a roman candle or two. Even Mrs. Woody lit off a roman candle this year; her first ever.
Sitting there, watching the star-spangled displays all around us, it was fun to try to imagine how America must have celebrated our independence more than 200 years ago. According to some histories, the first annual celebration took place in Philadelphia, one year after the Declaration was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. With the war still raging and its outcome still far from certain, early Americans were really sending a clear message to the world that we were taking our independence from the crown seriously. It was not only a celebration, but tonic for a young nation in search of its own identity.
Skip ahead two hundred years (two hundred and twenty eight from that first celebration, actually), and one wonders just how many revelers remember what, exactly, we're celebrating. It was altogether too easy to become cynical and believe that more than a few of these people were merely setting off the fireworks for sake of watching something explode. There is, after all, quite a rush associated with the experience.
Finally, however, I decided that any reason for celebrating, no matter how seemingly shallow, or far-removed from the true holiday meaning, had to be a good one. Celebration can be a personal tonic as well. Folks who work hard nearly every day, along with kids who have just finished their studies for the year need a chance to let loose and enjoy the balmy summer ahead.
For many folks today it's back to business as usual. Hopefully the memory of their celebrations will sustain them for this somewhat shortened work week. I would also hope that those memories serve to remind them that our liberty, having been secured, is far from guaranteed. There is still much work to do.