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What Does Independence Day Mean To You?

This essay originally appeared on Jennifer’s blog, mamawolfe.

The 4th of July, for me, isn’t the kind of holiday I really look forward to anymore. I live in a small town. We have the parades, the pancake breakfasts, the picnics, the gathering-together-in-the-park kind of celebrations. We have the swimming pools, the BBQs, the kids riding decorated bikes through town.

By Gabriel Pollard (Own work) [CC BY-SA

It just doesn’t speak to my independent spirit. I’m not a big crowd kind of person. I love the quiet, I love small gatherings, I love solitude. I love home.

I’m not anti-social, really. I like people; well, some people. I don’t like stepping over sweaty bodies laying all over the grass. I always got nervous when my kids were little and it got dark and I couldn’t see where they were. Now that they’re teens, I get nervous because they’re too big to cling to, and too old to stay by my side. Independence turned against me, I suppose.

We’ve celebrated Independence Day lots of different ways. Sometimes we’ve gone to the foothills to hang out with just one other family. We sat on their deck, the kids rode their horses and let off LOTS of fireworks. We’ve spent the 4th at the lake, riding bikes from home to Squaw Valley and back, then battling the crowds for blanket space and then sat in traffic after the last sparkler burned out. We’ve stayed at a bed and breakfast, just the two of us, and rode bikes around the Gold Country. One year, on a trip out of state, we danced around fireworks that seemed more like hand grenades being flung by passers-by. That didn’t speak to my spirit at all.

When I was little, the 4th often meant trips to my grandparent’s house in the Bay Area. Grandpa would have brought home “illegal” fireworks from Chinatown, and the cousins would light up the long, covered porch with sparklers and those snake-like ones that left an enticing trail of ash as proof that we really lit it. Lighting anything was a true sign of independence.

This Independence Day morning, I ponder the day ahead. My girl is long gone, skiing for the summer on top of a glacier in Oregon. No picnics with her today – she’s enjoying her own independent spirit. My boy is planning teenage shenanigans and reliably unreliable for family time, but horribly independent. My husband is working; I guess it’s just me and my dog. Maybe I’ll take a walk and watch the parade from a distance.  I’m sure I could dig up a few glow sticks tonight – no sparklers, though. Light a BBQ, sit under the trees on my patio, listening to the festivities going on down the block. Independent.

I think I’ll just listen to my own spirit, and ponder the real meaning of Independence Day.


Dear reader, how do you celebrate Independence Day? Do you listen to your own spirit, and do what you want to do?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a mom and middle school teacher, loves nothing more than watching kids be brave, courageous and navigate the world. Jennifer reflects on life’s lessons on her blog, mamawolfe, as well as on Huffington Post, Midlife Blvd., Mamalode, Mamapedia, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads. Instagram: mamawolfeto2

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Gilly Maddison

Thursday 2nd of July 2015

Oh my goodness - this struck a chord for me. It's a very evocative piece of writing through which your emotions come out very well, (Unless I am reading them wrong of course :-) I am a bit ahead of you in that my sons are older and now married with young children. Although I live in the UK, I can still relate to these mixed holiday emotions for the 'fun fun fun' times we are supposed have where it feels like the whole rest of the world is partying except for you. It is weird how it all changes as the children grow up and away. It still feel bereft at times when my head says they have their own lives but my heart is saying 'please come home for the holidays!' I love solitude as well thank goodness - because we do get plenty of it! But then when they all come back for a celebration of something, I am so glad to get the peace back when they have gone. No pleasing some people! Have a wonderful weekend with your dog and thank you for this lovely piece.

Jennifer Wolfe (@mamawolfeto2)

Friday 3rd of July 2015

Gilly, Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I really have grown to dislike the huge crowds and forced celebrations...I love having time with a few close friends, the quiet of my home (or theirs) and time to appreciate what's important - not feeling like I have to do something or be somewhere just because of a certain day. Here's to solitude and independence!

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