Friday, July 4, 2008


Southwestern Pennsylvania

When you live in a professional area in the Midwest, the Independence Day festivities and fireworks fall on, well, Independence Day.

When I was growing up in Appalachia, the Independence Day festivities and fireworks fell on, well, Independence Day.

But, as the coal business left for more carbon rich areas, and fewer and fewer stops are made along the rail ways in Appalachia, the small towns have lost population and capital. All this to say that the Independence Day festivities in small towns across the Appalachian area are no longer held on Independence Day. The costs for carnivals and fireworks for the Fourth of July make it prohibitive for these small towns to celebrate on the day. They retain their celebrations and continue counting the anniversaries since the first Independence Day party held by the town. In our little town, this year's festivities were held on Sunday the 29th of June. We didn't go, but found that we could watch the fireworks from our house. Good to remember for next year.

Instead of town-wide festivities, we went to Chris's parent's house for dinner and a really wonderful visit. I am so thankful we were able to spend the afternoon with them. Oven fried chicken, kielbasi, and salads. Yummy! We had some poppers and some sparklers made even better by good conversation and the excitement of a two year old. Abigail played till she had exhausted everyone including and especially herself. As we were driving home, we saw various fireworks displays purchased from the tents strategically set up throughout the small towns of the area. Small family celebrations.

When we arrived home, plumes of smoke told us that our neighborhood was in on the action. We were greeted by the pungent aroma of fireworks and the intermittent peels of chemicals heating to the point of explosion. The sounds, smells, and displays continue even as I type. Abigail has, thankfully, slept though it all.

And I am only left to smile. The sounds of celebrating independence. Perhaps less organized, regulated, and funded than those we saw while we were away, but certainly no less understood by those whose family find themselves in the military as a means of finding a more prosperous future.

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
The Star Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key

I never really realized that the last sentence was a question. Did you? And what do you think of that last question: "Does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

1 comment:

  1. I grew up in PA..not in a coal town, but have family in the Shamokin area. The small town I grew up in still has a fire works display once a year, but rarely on the 4th...usually the day before.