When I was in college, a friend told me her favorite holiday was the Fourth of July. Puzzled, I asked why?
“Because you get to spend the day with friends going to BBQ’s, the lake, and watching fireworks,” she answered.
I was still confused.
“Yeah sure, but your favorite? Really? It’s not even one of the big ones. Christmas has presents, trees, and sparkling lights. Thanksgiving has giant turkeys and Easter has it’s own bunny and creamed filled chocolate egg.” I argued with enthusiasm.
“I don’t know. I like those holidays, but the 4th has always been my favorite,” she said sticking to her guns.
I still didn’t get it.
For me, no matter how things got at home when I was kid, holidays found a way to be special.
You’ve never seen a Christmas tree until you’ve seen a white trash Christmas tree covered in tinsel and giant outdoor lights that may very well catch the thing on fire. Thanksgiving always had feasting...the one day a year when it was all you can eat desserts, even if the dessert of choice was pecan pie. And Easter meant a new dress! (Well, it meant one new dress and one hand-me-down dress, during the course of my entire childhood, but who’s counting).
Sure, Fourth of July came with a boston butt smoking on the grill for eight hours straight and breaking into my father’s firework stash from his days working at an actual fireworks stand. And while those fireworks were from the late 70’s, before they put things like “restrictions” on the type of explosives used, the 4th never trumped any of the other big three.
Then I was invited to spend a holiday with my friend’s family. It was one of the most awkward Thanksgiving dinners I’d ever been a part of. It was almost as if every member of this particular family were just putting in the required holiday time and looking forward to leaving as soon as possible. They didn’t even have a drunk uncle to keep things interesting.
And it dawned on me. The big three are always about family. The 4th is about the family you get to pick...friends. It’s not that she loved water sports and ribs so much, it was that she could be herself around her friends in a way she couldn’t with family.
In honor of her, today I celebrate the 4th not just for our nation’s independence, but also for friends.
Since that conversation in college, I’ve spent at least a dozen Christmas’, Thanksgivings, and Easters away from family, but I’ve never spent them alone. There was always a friend to meet at Waffle House on Easter, a friend who roasted a turkey on Thanksgiving, and a friend who spent $10 at Christmas on what would become a favorite book.
Without those friends, my big three would’ve lost their luster.
So spend the day with family, or the family you choose, but please, get the grill going and by all means...blow something up.