As I write this, the holiday weekend is in full swing. After months of isolation, many people are heading to the beach or other holiday festivities to participate in the July 4th rituals of sun-worshipping, swimming, and grilling out. And while these are all familiar ways to celebrate the holiday, there is nothing normal about our world right now.
I remember as a little girl my parents would have a big cookout with friends and family in our backyard. Long folding tables were covered in red and white checked tablecloths. The kids were all given sparklers to play with while we waited for food from the grill, lemonade and juicy chunks of watermelon.
As a teenager, we watched fireworks at the local park or high school in our hometown—bringing a blanket and a picnic and sitting with hundreds of people in the dark waiting for the magic to happen.
And then, as a young mother, we brought our children to the Jersey Shore to visit my parents and participate in the local holiday boat parade and watch fireworks there. One year it rained off and on, and as we waited patiently on my parent’s balcony, my then three-year-old said: “What’s the holdup? Don’t they know I’m ready?”
As our girls got a little bit older, we would walk from my father’s house the three blocks to the beach and sit beneath the starry sky on the edge of the dunes where we could see fireworks’ displays in the small towns up and down the coastline.
For years, we have watched fireworks along the North Carolina coast, sometimes from a balcony, sometimes on the edge of the water, sometimes lying on a bean bag on the bow of a boat.
This year, many of these events have understandably been canceled due to the coronavirus. This year many people have mixed feelings about patriotism and pride in the traditional American symbols due to a painful history of racism in America. It is a strange holiday, indeed, bittersweet for many people for many reasons.
My hope is that by July 4th 2021, there is a vaccine for COVID-19 which will eliminate the fear and the destructive social isolation and economic devastation our country has experienced in the past few months. I also dream of a country where our American symbols and traditions can stand for everyone—for inclusion, not exclusion, for compassion, for kindness, for understanding. I believe we can and will get there, but we will only get there together.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.