Having missed the Fourth of July celebrations last year because we were visiting the land that the USA was celebrating its lack of dependence upon, this year was our first experience of Independence Day in our foster country.
It’s no secret that Americans love a public holiday, and the Fourth of July is the mother of all public holidays. The country’s official national day, it’s a stars-and-stripes extravaganza, an all-American celebration of family, friends and the beloved homeland. It’s uplifting, exciting, and it’s hot. Not just because it’s summer, but because everybody adds to the heat by firing up a barbecue.
Mr Applepip was out early on his bike in the park and he came back with reports of people marking out their barbecue territory from 7am onwards. Folding tables were unfolded, bags upon coolbags of food were stacked up, deckchairs were put out and barbecues themselves were set up. The barbecues ranged from the disposable type capable of grilling little more than a couple of sausages and a burger to full-sized gas constructions wheeled from home to feed parties of twenty or more.
Bigger Boy and Littler Boy decided to mark the day by demonstrating their own independence even more vehemently than usual. Littler insisted on putting his own butter on his toast, which without adult intervention would have resulted in his consuming the recommended weekly intake of fat for a two year old in one sitting. He and his older brother then ‘helped’ us put sunscreen on them, so that the experience was more like an oil wrestling contest than a simple application of cream. We would have walked out of the apartment, but it was quicker to slide along the wooden floors and down the stairs.
The rest of the day was leisurely: a barbecue with friends in the park at lunchtime, and a barbecue on our deck later that evening. I think it is fair to say that we embraced the barbecue tradition.
Despite the inordinate amount of meat, bread, corn and coleslaw we had eaten, Mr Applepip and I still managed to climb up onto our roof to see the fireworks over Manhattan. As we watched them, I reflected upon what they symbolised. Americans are loyal to their country and they welcome an opportunity to celebrate what it stands for. You can’t blame them – even in these turbulent times, just as the British showed their fundamental loyalty and national pride during the jubilee, Americans love to feel they belong, even if the country has failed them. I was reminded of this earlier in the day when I greeted the homeless man who sits outside the deli at the end of our street. While his country celebrates its independence, he remains acutely dependent upon it, as do millions like him. Given that he has been sitting outside the deli for the last 18 months, it seems that his own independence is still a distant hope. In some ways, America and Britain are not really that different. And the fireworks still go on.