I must admit I’ve never felt particularly connected to the Fourth of July. It is one of those holidays I think you have to have childhood memories of, and I don’t have any, since I moved to this country as a teenager. I was catching up with my best friend on the phone yesterday, and she reminisced fondly of spending time with grandparents, having barbecues and watching fireworks.
For me, those memories are associated with Bastille Day. We spent summers in France when I was a child, and I remember it being a two-day celebration with lots of good food and a dance in the main square of the little village where my grandmother owned a home.
But it’s been more than two decades since I celebrated Bastille Day, and I have probably celebrated more Fourths than Quatorzes, and yet I still feel disconnected.
When I was in college, I visited Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. It was the end of August, and sweltering. I have read that temperatures were equally high that summer in 1776, and I wonder if the Founding Fathers were as miserable as I was. At least I wasn’t wearing a wig! And I imagine the smell wasn’t great either, since that many sweaty men in a small space would make the air pretty rank. Thankfully, the crowd I was with had access to deodorant.
I remember standing in that empty space, looking at the gleaming wood and plaster and being a bit nonplussed. Major things had happened there, but if they had left a trace, I couldn’t feel it. I can’t claim to be that sensitive to vibrations – for that matter, I’m a skeptic when it comes to anything paranormal. I’d love to believe, and I love a good ghost story, but the wannabe scientist in me never takes that leap.
Still, there have been places where I’ve been uncomfortable for no particular reason. The dungeons at Chillon Castle in Switzerland come to mind. Then again, the guide was very good at describing the conditions for the prisoners, and I could feel the rocky floor under my feet and the icy breeze off Lake Geneva. So maybe that was it.
Anyway, I wish the people of my adopted country a happy Independence Day. May the burgers be juicy, the lemonade cold and the fireworks sparkly!
All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.