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Bonnie Brown: Fourth of July

What does Independence Day mean to you? For most of us, the Fourth of July means barbeques, swimming, parades, fireworks and good times with friends and family. It’s also the time of the year when we hear patriotic songs and we have a good feeling about being an American. I remember in grade school the joke was “Does Britain have a 4th of July?” The answer was, of course, “Yes! And a 5th of July, and a 6th of July, and so on.”
Long ago my two younger brothers, my mom, dad and I would go down to the creek near our house carrying the makings for a “weenie roast.” That consisted, of course, of hot dogs, buns, both ketchup and mustard for those of us who had a hard time deciding on the right condiment, a jug of kool-aid, and marshmallows. My dad would find a few small tree limbs, cut them into about 3-foot lengths, then with his pocket knife, he would carefully strip away the outer bark at one end of the stick. That’s where we would slip the hotdog on and hold it over the fire he had made among the rocks. While my dad gathered the limbs for cooking the hotdogs, my brothers and I would skip rocks. We went for distance and more importantly how many “skips” we got. Rarely did we ever get the hot dogs cooked to just the right temperature. They usually got pretty charred or hardly cooked at all. The marshmallows were much the same. These outings had little to do with food but rather were our family’s tradition of celebrating the Fourth. These outings were such simple summer holiday celebrations, yet I remember them with such fondness. Afterward, we’d set off some firecrackers and in my mind’s eye, our simple family celebration rivaled the current-day Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks display.
Many years later, my husband Tom and younger son Jeff were on a road trip out west over the Fourth of July and I was home alone thinking it would be a very blah, boring celebration for me. My older son Dennis was newly-married and I was certain that he and his new bride would ignore me opting to spend time together. So I was pleasantly surprised when they invited me to tag along to their friends’ house to enjoy beer and brats. This was such a fun afternoon, playing horseshoes, laughing and joking, and enjoying both beer and brats! As it started to get dark, I prepared to go home but was encouraged to stay for the fireworks. I expected some sparklers and a few low-key fireworks. Instead, my son’s friend took the gutter off the short side of his house and proceeded to launch rockets into the dark night sky. What a show! As the senior, mature “adult” of the group, I should have protested about his taking down the gutter, but instead I enjoyed it more than anyone. I went home and tucked away yet another special Fourth of July memory with family and friends.
I mentioned patriotic songs earlier but have to share with you that there are times other than the Fourth of July when we hear patriotic songs–during war. In the fall of 1990, the United States was involved in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. It was of particular interest to me since our son Dennis was in the army and had been deployed to Saudia Arabia as part of Desert Shield. Dennis’ specialty was NBC, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare operations. I tuned in to every newscast during that difficult time hoping for good news about our troops. I wanted to know everything I could about the conflict.
My husband and I were in attendance at an early Ole Miss football game that season of 1990 and the entire half-time show was about honoring our troops and the music was all patriotic. Who can remain dry-eyed when hearing the lyrics to Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to be an American?” I found myself sobbing through the entire show thinking of all the young men and women involved in the war, and most especially about my 20-year-old boy. I still tear up when I hear that song.
I can’t imagine those days in 1776 following the American Revolution when the new United States of America was finally separated from Great Britain and undertook the task of establishing a government in a new land with a new way of life and difficult challenges. What courage it must have taken for those who were willing to stand up for what they believed!
War continues to be a threat to our glorious way of life and the brave men and women in the military are to be commended and honored for their service. So this year I’m hopeful that we can put differences aside and take pride in being an American. I hope that we Americans never forget why we celebrate the Fourth of July and I hope that we each take a minute to reflect on what Independence Day means to us individually, and as a nation.
Happy Fourth of July!

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.
*Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other staff and/or contributors of HottyToddy.com. For questions, comments or to submit your own guest column, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.
For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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