“Happy Fourth of July!” It’s a wish to all of you, from me, but it’s also a wish for myself as the joyous holiday embarks upon us for another year. I’m hoping I can enjoy not only the day myself, but give my kids something they’ll always remember too.
That’s part of what the Fourth of July is all about anyway, for most of us. Yes, it’s also about remembering our independence as a country, and that should be a focus as we educate our children and personally reflect upon the greatness of the United States. But come on, you’d be less than truthful if you didn’t admit you were just as excited to spend your day off commemorating in style.
Whether you’re on a boat on a lake or river, in your backyard by the barbecue or in South Lake Tahoe staking out a claim on a part of the beach, you’re looking for a good time. So am I. And I’m hoping it turns into a memory.
I have many fond memories from the Fourth of July. Sure, some revolved around blowing things up — and with a ban countywide on fireworks that won’t be a focus for many this year — but the majority of my Fourth of July memories revolve around family.
It’s rare as we become adults that we get the entire family together — my adult siblings and slowly aging parents — but we’re doing it this year. We try to every year, but it’s not a realistic achievement when we are spread out amongst three states and are each starting families of our own. This Fourth of July I’m lucky enough for that to be the case. I plan on taking full advantage of every minute, with an added bonus of watching my sister get married along the way.
Eventually she’ll start a family of her own and it’ll get even tougher. So it’s important this memory becomes a lasting one.
So how do I do it? How, without letting the pressure crush the spirit of it all, do we make a few days in July 2013 last forever?
The answer can be complex if you let it. Some will have put a year’s worth of planning into this question, renting the best beach house or flying to a romantic destination to celebrate. I think it can be a lot more simple, and a lot less expensive, if the focus is put on who you’re with, and not what you do.
It’s kind of ironic. We are constantly dreaming about relaxing on a beach in the tropics or dining in the nightlife of France or Italy, but when I look back at my greatest memories, they rarely include an exotic location. A lot of them were just at my parents’ place, soaking up family time. I don’t remember a whole lot of the organized activities we did, just that there was nowhere else I’d rather be.
We’ve been lucky enough to recently take that scenario to exotic locations the last few years, once at a house on a lake and another a house on a beach, but the emotions involved were no different. I had the most fun just spending time with my family. The conversations, the laughter, the joy of watching my parents and siblings connect with my kids, all of it could have happened anywhere.
I have a photo of my entire family — my wife and daughters along with my parents, siblings and their kids — sitting on a log on the beach, waiting for the local fireworks show to begin. It’s a wide shot, could have possibly even been a panoramic with how many people have joined, and it makes me smile every time. My eldest is making a funny face in it, which is typical. I experience both happiness and sadness upon viewing it, knowing these magical times are limited. But the photo makes me feel, a lot, and I am lucky to have so much love to share, and the people to share it with.
A few photos later in the folder is one of my wife snuggled in a blanket with my two daughters as the glow of fireworks in the sky illuminates their faces. They’re shivering, and it’s kind of funny actually, but it reminds me that everything I needed for the Fourth of July last year I had. And you could have to that too, tomorrow.
There’s nothing wrong with going big on the holiday plans if you can afford it. But you really don’t have to. Focus on time with your loved ones if you can. That’s the one thing you always look back on and never regret. Time is always well wasted when it’s used on the people you care the most about.
Because in these times, when the world seems harsh and life seems tough, the one thing you can hope to always count on is family. My greatest memories usually include the members of mine, and I’m hoping my children can say the same when they’re my age. So, this year, and many years after this one, it’s my duty to make sure that as my kids wave those American flags, they do it with a smile on their faces, surrounded by the people who love them the most. And once again, this Fourth of July, I’m lucky enough to be able to do the that for them, and for me.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat.