I grew up in the footsteps of the American Revolution. In a Massachusetts town named Sharon with streets called Musket and Gunhouse, with statues honoring Deborah Sampson, a woman who disguised herself as a man to fight with the revolutionaries, history is everywhere. History means something. History is tradition. And on the 4th of July growing up, that tradition in Sharon was just as American as apple pie, and just as delicious. We’d have a parade down South Main Street in the morning, decorate our bikes in red, white, and blue streamers, stand on the sidewalk and –if you were lucky enough– catch candy tossed from the folks in the parade, and we capped it all off with a fireworks show on the water.
In Sharon, we celebrated our country as a community. We celebrated as a family. In my house, we grabbed our blankets and walked down to the lake with a picnic dinner and staked out a spot several hours before the fireworks. We’d have sparklers and glow sticks, and fried dough, and treats. There’d be a couple of amusement rides for the kids, and a bunch of community groups selling their food. The band played patriotic tunes on the bandstand. The cool summer breeze would blow off the docks as the lake water lapped up against the shore. It was a chance to see friends you hadn’t seen since school let out a month ago. As I got older, it was a chance to see friends I had lost touch with in college. It always came back to the lake. When 930 would hit, they’d light off the fireworks over the lake from docks in the middle of the water. It was spectacular. It was colorful. It was loud. It was tradition. It was my town. At the end of the night, we’d grab our blankets from the beach with the smell of the fireworks still in the air, and head up Gunhouse past Deborah Sampson park on the walk home.
I live across the country now, thousands of miles away from my hometown and years away from my childhood, but just as close to my heart. I have two children now and we are starting our own 4th of July traditions, walking to the high school in town, and setting up our blankets, and watching the fireworks. But I’ll never forget where I grew up. Several years ago, I got a chance to return to Sharon on the 4th of July. Past Rock Ridge Cemetery where Deborah Sampson is buried, past the church bells at the Unitarian Church manufactured by Paul Revere, you can take a right turn down to the lake. Listen close and you just might hear the fife and drum of the American Revolution, of a time in the past, of celebrations in the past. It was there we gathered to celebrate the 4th of July. It was there the community gathered as a family. It was as American as apple pie and it was just as delicious.