My grandson and I had a discussion last Thursday as we were heading downtown for the fireworks. He was explaining to us why we celebrate the 4th of July.
“A long time ago, some people didn’t want us to have a country,” he began very authoritatively. “They tried to make us do what they wanted us to do and we said no. Then they came over and started killing everybody and there was lots of gunfire and we finally won and they went home,” he said excitedly, all in one breath.
“We learned it at school. That’s why we set off fireworks,” he added proudly.
“That’s right, Thomas,” I told him. “Did you learn about the Declaration of Independence in school , too?”
He shook his head. “No…I think we’re going to learn that next year.”
I smiled, and though I didn’t want to undermine his triumphant moment, I couldn’t help but see an opportunity to impart a little wisdom on my grandchildren.
“We celebrate the 4th of July because our forefathers left England in search of a place where they could be free to do what they want. They didn’t want to listen to a king who told them that they had to worship God or live life a certain way. But the king wouldn’t let them go and he tried to make them follow his rules by sending soldiers here. But the new Americans decided they didn’t have to listen to him anymore and got together and fought them and made them go back to England.”
“What’s a forefather?” Isabelle piped up.
Thinking of an easy definition, I told her, “The people who knew George Washington.”
“Oh,” she said sitting back, satisfied with the answer.
I continued with my lesson.
“We celebrate the 4th of July to remind us how lucky we are to have the freedom to worship God the way we want, to say whatever we want, or live how we want.”
I paused and could tell by the looks on their faces that they were no longer listening. Their minds were on other things.
“And the fireworks are really cool, too,” I said enthusiastically, livening up the mood, and bringing them back to the moment.
“Yeah, they are!” they all agreed.
As we walked to a good spot to see the fireworks show, I thought about what I told them. I didn’t always appreciate the holiday or what it stands for. But I do now. Maybe it’s because I’m older and wiser, but I’ve also witnessed oppression-on TV, the Internet, and in the newspapers.
But my grandkids aren’t really aware of that yet. Maybe they can enjoy a few more years of their childhood before reality smacks them across the head. They’ll figure it out some day, and when they do, I hope they will keep those freedoms sacred and realize just how lucky they are to live in a country that recognizes them.
I thought about the good times I had when I was little, with sparklers and fireworks, and if that is what the Fourth of July means to our children at this point in their lives, then so be it.
After all, that’s a freedom, too.