Celebrating the 4th of July…in January
Like Christmas in July, sometimes you have to just make due with what you’ve got. So, since I can’t be back home watching fireworks and nibbling on tender BBQ ribs, I’ve had to find some other way in which to celebrate what has always been one of my favourite holidays.
Now, before you even think it, this was not a surreptitious way in which to American-ize the good people of Australia; it was just a way to connect with the things I missed most about Independence Day: patriotism; friends and family gatherings; face paintings; celebrations in the parks; the smells of a BBQ (yes, Ralph, that’s a hint) and of course, fireworks!
It was funny in that once she mentioned this idea, my outlook changed from observer to participant. Yes, I could be a part of this day! I just had to squint a little and pretend that the blue, white and red colours I saw were actually red, white and blue.
As we walked around the city you couldn’t help but notice that everyone was smiling. Whether they were wearing some sort of patriotic garb or simply carrying a paper flag, everyone was smiling. This is what I missed. The camaraderie.
Asma, once again with the brilliant ideas, found a way for us to sort of absorb that energy by approaching people and asking to take their photo. Being the deviant that I am, (don’t deny it Asma, you encouraged me) I got a little sneaky and figured we’d have a little more luck if we had a back story. So, cut to the Vintage Car display, and now I’m approaching people with this wretched Southern accent (technically I am from Kentucky), and deemed myself a traveller looking to get photos of “Australian Fourth of July” to share with my friends back home.
We started off just collecting photos but ended up collecting stories. Everyone wanted to chat. Some told us that they were there for their kids, just like their parents had done for them; others were just happy to have the day off and enjoy the free concerts. Many wanted to know about American traditions, while others were happy we wanted to hear about theirs.
But hands’ down, one of the coolest things we encountered – and which I believe truly exemplified the meaning of the day – was this cheery group of friends draped in Australian flags. Their laughter was contagious, so we were unfazed when they came up and inquired as to where we were from.
“No, we mean what country were you born in?” asked one of the guys in a playful manner.
“Why?” I countered curiously.
“Well, we’re having this competition amongst ourselves to see who can find the most countries,” he replied with a humble smile, “so if you’re American, that’s another point for me. Welcome to Australia.”
I walked away thinking of the significance of those last few words, mainly “welcome.” Isn’t that simple sentiment the heart and soul of the Fourth of July? Didn’t immigrants from foreign shores form the Unites States? Yes, this guy was referring to Australia, but I was thinking of how the Statue of Liberty and her noted inscription, “Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” welcomed my Polish, German and Irish ancestors.
After that, I had myself a little giggle as I realized the absurdity of the situation. In a few minutes I had managed to tap the memory banks to come up with that quote on immigration; pondered my relatives’ journey to America; thought about the men and women that served so that I could have the freedom to travel to other countries; and reminisced about the “Ewww. Ahhh. Eeee. Aggg.” cadence my brothers and I created during firework displays. That’s a lot to think about, but it was all thanks to that guy in a red, white and blue cape.
Happy Fourth of July!