Indeed, we managed to get plenty of dogs grilled, as well as hamburgers. And along with that, a pan full of ribs got smoked to perfection! (Years ago, a fast food company propounded the question, "Where's the beef?" More recently, another fast food chain has boldly declared "We have the meat!" The modern day objections of a well intentioned if misguided minority of folks who eat only vegetables notwithstanding, we Jacksons remain "hardcore carnivores". For this reason, cousins Wendy and Arby are welcome at our place anytime!)
This mass of protein was, of course, accompanied by all the “fixins”. Potato salad, loaded "tator" skins, baked beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, tomato slices, cucumber slices, cantaloupe slices… You name it, we pretty much had it. To say nothing of the vast array of deserts we spread around: among other things, cookies, cakes, and plenty of ice cream. And all this was topped off with gallons and gallons of sweet iced tea with lemon. Man, oh man! We would have made the Food Channel proud.
Along the way, we tasted something even better: fellowship. We reminisced, we wisecracked, and we laughed as we experienced the joy of being together. In fact, it is arguable that the companionship we enjoyed was more gratifying than the actual food. Most certainly, our souls received nurture as they rejoiced and bonded closer together as a family.
And then, as if all this were not enough, we topped the day off with our own little fireworks extravaganza. We "oohed" and "aahed" with the best of them as we took it all in. By the end of our time together, I was well satisfied with the day’s activities.
Or at least as much as one can be on a mere fifty dollars’ worth of fireworks! For some reason, whenever we were purchasing the fireworks, fifty dollars’ worth seemed like an awful lot. But when we got around to shooting them off, the exact opposite was true. In retrospect, the climax to the day was, shall we say, short and to the point.
As I have thought about this, I have been reminded about what my dad used to say every year on December 26th: “Nothing is ever as over as Christmas!” I suppose that the same true is true for most every holiday. Certainly it applies to Independence Day.
In no time at all, darkness descended upon us, signifying the end of this otherwise bright and beautiful July day. We took the instinctive queue, and the smoke had barely cleared before we were all scurrying around, gathering up chairs and dishes and leftovers and piling things into our vehicles for the trip back to our respective homes, and dare I say it, to our workaday routines.
Even worse, my suspicion is that, along with our leftover red, white, and blue napkins, paper plates, cups, and streamers, we will all be tempted to pack away much of our patriotism as well. And for too many of us, it will remain right there, neatly tucked away in some box in the back of the closet until we call it forth again for some future similarly festive occasion.
By contrast, we would all do well to heed the admonition of Thomas Jefferson, who famously said: “Patriotism is not a short and frenzied burst of emotion, but the long and steady dedication of a lifetime.” How right he was. And how right we would all be to make patriotism a way of life rather than the obligatory activity of a mere one or two days on the annual calendar.
Indeed, if this were the case, how much better a place might America herself be. For nothing better extols the rich history, culture, and ideals of a nation than the hearts and lives of her people!
So, my friends, as Independence Day comes to an end, feel free to box up the decorations. But not the spirit! Keep the latter out of the box and on display all year round, savoring the taste of it again and again as you revel in the blessings that come with being a part of the greatest nation in history!