Happy birthday, America!
I always loved the Fourth of July. As a kid, it meant hot dogs and potato chips, and when it got dark out, the best thing next to Halloween candy and Christmas presents -
I loved those things - swish them through the air and they'd leave behind glowing trail. Just stare at them, and it as if you held a star in your hand. Then just like that -poof! - they'd burn out. My grandfather used to buy them for my brother and I (don't ask me where, he had a gift for simply making things appear), and we'd get the warning about not touching them. When they burned out, he'd take them and shove them, hot side down, into a bucket of sand. Not once, in all the years he bought them, did any of us kids ever get burned.
As far as I know, sparklers are now illegal. Apparently someone else's kids either weren't as smart, or didn't listen as well as we did. I wish they weren't, though. Now that I have kids of my own, I'd love to watch them zinging those stars through the night air. Oh well... what can you do?
But for me, the Fourth isn't all about sparklers and cookouts (ours was washed out this year - rats.) Not only do I love history, but the American Revolution is probably my favorite era. NJ played such a huge role, that it's one of the things I love best about living here. You are surrounded by history. Princeton, Monmouth, Trenton, Jockey Hollow in Morristown - and that's just off the top of my head.
For a history lover, New Jersey's ripe with history. The memorable surprise attack on the Hessians at Christmas. Molly Pitcher. Did you know that when the Continental Army quartered in Morristown in the winter of 1779-1780, the conditions were worse than those at Valley Forge? And Washington chose Morristown because of its strategic location.
I went to Ford Mansion years ago, which was where Washington headquartered during that time and it almost blew me away to be standing in a room, walking on the floors, and touching a few of the things that George Washington touched. Amazing. It's like being a part of something so much larger than yourself - I really can't put it into words.
To think about what they were doing, and why, and what would have happened, had they failed. It is amazing to me, to see that history all around. Some people look at Princeton Battlefield and see only a field. I look and I can almost see the Continental armies. I can almost see George Washington astride his horse, inspecting his troops. I can almost hear what happened two hundred and thirty years ago.
To me, that is what the Fourth of July is about - not so much the barbecues and the fireworks (although they are really cool), but it's about what really happened, almost literally in my backyard.
Happy Fourth of July!