Photo by Franne Demetrician

We have arrived at one of those wonderful American holiday weekends…Fourth of July. What fun…our favorite summer holiday with BBQ’s, fun at the beach, boating, swimming, time with friends and family. What a great tradition this is. As with so many of our holidays, we often forget why we are celebrating.

For many years our family tradition was to pack up a feast and roll ourselves out to a huge field near Jadwin Gym on the Princeton University campus. There, along with a few thousand other people, we would spread our blankets and unload a feast to share with each other and our neighboring partiers. We would listen to The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra all evening and when the sky was dark the orchestra would begin playing Tchaikovsky’s majestic 1812 Overture. I have goosebumps thinking about the stirring moment…the moment in the piece when the strike of the timpani drums and crashing cymbals depict the booming sound of canons firing. It was then, in that dramatic moment, that our fireworks display would begin. Some performances even used actual canons firing at that exact moment. That moment still brings me to tears and Major Goosebumps!

Our history is rife with canon fire and on the Fourth of July we use fireworks to remind us of that sound and to celebrate our declaration of freedom. I’ve loved fireworks since I was a little girl and frankly when I see them I’m still thrilled by it. I clap and screech with delight, covering my ears to protect them from the noise, yet focused on the sky so I won’t miss one magical second of the exploding light and color.

This year, when freedom from oppression of any kind seems to be the order of the day, I will again listen to Tchaikovsky’s iconic symphony and remember why we celebrate the way we do…with canons firing and fireworks exploding in the sky…they way they have during the many wars and struggles our country has endured in order to insure our freedom. And at the end, when the chimes are ringing the sound of freedom, I will remember all of those who have made it possible for me to spend a warm summer night with family and friends affirming that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the birthright of every human being.

STRETCH: Celebrate and remember! Let freedom ring!

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