A Tribute to Freedom
Jacqueline Quillen Fennington
MSN Class of 2010
(July 2011) The Fourth of July is a day we celebrate no matter where we are or who we are with. Ask anyone about their favorite memories of July 4th and it usually involves being around family and friends, indulging in great food followed by a late-night showing of fireworks. John Adams was
supposedly the first to describe how the day was to be celebrated as, "pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations."
My earliest memories of the Fourth involve cookouts in my backyard with friends and family. MomMom sported a new red, white and blue outfit every year and always looked her finest for the occasion. Every few years I benefited from her holiday attire shopping sprees with a new American flag t-shirt. PopPop showed up with a few cigars in hand ready to
sit back and enjoy the company of his sons, son-in-laws, good food and beer. With Mom busy in the kitchen, Dad manning the grill and my siblings and I entertaining all the cousins, we put on one heck of a party.
My favorite part was being with all my cousins. There are 19 of us now ranging in age from 26 to five. We have all broken off into mini alliances based on age groups. My closest cousins are Kate, 22, and her brother Kurt, 20 – we call ourselves the three musketeers.
First we hit the pool for some water games until our parents forced us to get out, dry off and eat. Then they made us wait those dreadful 15 minutes before jumping back in the pool, during which we would play an intense game of badminton. When it grew dark and we were forced to get out of the pool again, we started a game of flashlight tag with
boundaries extending to my entire neighborhood block. Every time another tree comes down or a bush gets trimmed, my first thought is, "Darn, that was a good hiding spot!"
The best part of the night was, of course, the fireworks. My backyard was a prime seat for fireworks being set off at the country club down the road. Occasionally my dad set off fireworks from our backyard. He always joked about them landing on the neighbor’s roof. Luckily they never did!
Growing older I have not been to my family’s 4th of July cookout in a few years. After my junior year of college, I spent the summer in Ocean City, MD with friends from college. I worked at a restaurant on the boardwalk and was inevitably scheduled for the evening shift on the Fourth. At the beginning of the summer my manager told us to plan on being
available that night because it was the busiest night of the summer. That it was! A few of my roommates who were not working that night ventured down to the boardwalk and stopped by the restaurant to say hi. I appreciated the visit, but could not even get away for a minute to talk to them because it was so busy. As soon as the fireworks started, however, everyone, guests and
staff, vacated the restaurant, mid-meal, to watch the fireworks from the boardwalk. I remember sneaking outside to catch a view and standing next to people who were sitting at one of my tables. It was a time when that barrier between server and restaurant guests was immediately dissolved.
No matter where you are or who are with, the Fourth is a time to celebrate being an American.
Independence Day may have a different meaning to each and every one of us. For me, I have never had to think twice about my freedom, which I guess I have taken for granted. Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for my freedom and for our country’s independence, but it is not the first thing I think about every day. My cousin Kurt, on the other hand,
probably thinks about his freedom every day.
Kurt is in the army and spent the last year in Afghanistan fighting for America. He always speaks about his experiences in a prideful manner, but refrains from getting into too much detail about the conditions in Afghanistan. It sounds far from pleasant. Needless to say, he was ecstatic to return home at the end of June.
My roommates from college who have been teaching in Ecuador for the last year will also experience a different kind of Fourth this year. Jill says it will be strange spending the day away from home and will miss watching the fireworks with her little sisters and cooking hotdogs with her mom. Being in Ecuador has also given all of the girls – Jill, Anne
and Lauren – a better appreciation for their American freedom.
Like I said earlier, freedom is not something I think about every day. Anne and Jill, on the other hand, think about the lack of freedom they have to even walk down the street in Ecuador. It is dangerous, especially for women, to walk alone on the streets. Anne mentioned that men will frequently stare her up and down and call or whistle at her in the
street. "It’s an invasion of my personal space," she said. "I appreciate being respected more as a woman in the United States and my freedom to walk down the street knowing that I am protected. I feel blessed to born in such a wonderful country."
Freedom is different in every country. As an American, the greatest freedom I appreciate is the freedom of speech. I honestly don’t know how I would feel if I couldn’t say what I wanted to say freely on a daily basis. I recently heard a funny story from my MomMom about my mom as a kid and how she was frequently sent to her room for "talking back." When
I asked Mom about it to get her side of the story, she said she never talked back she was simply voicing her opinion, but still got in trouble for it. This rang a bell from my times during my childhood when I was sent to my room for mouthing off to my parents. I remember thinking the same thing, that I was simply voicing my opinion! Like mother, like daughter. We are always
inclined to use that phrase, "It’s a free country," and act however we want. But for children, this does not always apply at home!
How we celebrate the Fourth depends on where we are at the moment. This year I get the chance to experience the country’s birthday in heart of it all – Washington, D.C. Happy Fourth of July!
Read other articles by Jacqueline Quillen