The 4th of July and I have had a tentative relationship. I grew up in a family where it wasn’t a BIG thing, but not because my family was unpatriotic. It wasn't always a day off for my Dad and 4 day weekends are a bit more rare in their jobs than in the Army. This holiday was a nice day to relax and catch the fireworks from afar, but we didn't fight the crowds or throw BBQs. We went to parades when we were little, but there was not a lot of celebrating. I had a longing for more celebration, and now I know it's because I belonged with some people I had yet to meet.
Everything changed 7 years ago….
Now the 4th marks the beginning of me wanting this NEW LIFE, this uncomfortable unknown lifestyle of being a military wife. Wanting it more than I wanted to be safe and be like most of the people I grew up with. (I was a bit unaware of the military in the area where I grew up.)
The 4th of July weekend was my first big event with my future husband seven years ago during our long distance relationship. It was a huge BBQ, two grills…. lots of food and sides, games, and people. I was meeting his parents for the FIRST time. I also met a few of his sisters. I had no idea that I was part of the reason for the BIG turn out. He had told his friends and family that an important girl was coming (his girlfriend)! Man was I nervous! Plus, we had breakfast with my folks during an extended pit stop on their long drive from Florida vacation back home to Virginia. That stop was a miracle in itself. When my family travels, they don’t linger. The mission is to get home as quickly as possible. But this stop was so WORTH it! My mom finally met the man I would someday marry. It had been a long distance thing for just one month at this point.
It was the most magical day. After arriving at his bachelor pad, I got to spend some quality time with his mom and two of his sisters. I still remember his mom buying me a coffee from Starbucks and then we rummaged around some bargain stores for clothes…. getting lost in a town where I had lived the earlier half of that year. There was laughter and conversation.
The whole day seemed like different waves of people. Out of town people hung out longer than the in town people who joined us. If he hadn’t seen me in a while, he would come find me, in the sweetest way. He just loved introducing me to EVERYONE! I remember getting to know his dad and step-mom on the couch by the bay window. He was snapping pictures all day long…. capturing all sorts of candid moments.
That night, we crammed into cars to go on base to see the fireworks. What a beautiful display! On the long walk back to the car…. I asked a funny question…. “If today was a drink what type of drink would it be? And why?”
He laughed, but he went with it….. ”SWEET TEA. Because it is my favorite.”
My answer: “Perrier, because I can drink one a day.”
My heart was full. This was a significant day. My heart has never been the same concerning the love of my life. And it will never be the same when I think about our country, either.
I teared up today.
Out of the blue. While I was telling my girls that the 4th of July is America’s birthday…
They love birthdays because to them birthdays equal treats.
But I went on highlighting to them how awesome it is to live in a country with freedom and how their daddy fights for that freedom and how WE ARE A PART OF THAT. I am grateful that my patriotic heart finally found the place it was called to serve! This privilege is costly… I have stopped trying to predict or plan the future…. to a point. I have had to learn to WAIT better, and have realized that as long as I don’t give up, eventually the wait will be over.
Celebrating the 4th is important. Not elaborate, but meaningful. We have yet to have a party that rivals our first 4th together. Especially since that marks the night we knew that we would marry each other. A month later he proposed.
Some years we have spent this day what felt like a million miles apart because of the mission of freedom. And other years we have been hand and hand. Each has been meaningful in its own way. I can’t have one and abandon the other.
How do you celebrate the 4th? I think I am finding that the celebration starts with my gratefulness. I want to soak that in. Soak in that I am "Proud to be an American.” I am grateful to be his wife. To be a mom. And to be able to create.