This time of year, I am reminded not only of the men and women who serve our country and ensure our freedoms but of the memories I made with my family each Fourth of July. One memory, in particular, always comes to mind.
When I was a child, my family and I were members of the Italian-American Club. In 1976, the club put on a parade to celebrate the 200th anniversary of our country’s independence. My father owned a Jeep at the time, so naturally, he was asked to pull the float. He agreed, and he even bought festive red, white, and blue-striped pants for the occasion. I still remember those pants. He put everyone else to shame with his patriotism.
My brother and I were part of the parade, but we didn’t sit with my dad as he pulled the float. Instead, we handed out candy and flags to everyone in attendance. I felt like the entire town showed up, and I was bewildered by the amount of candy we handed out — it felt like hundreds of pounds. My brother and I were so proud to be a part of the celebration, and the heat didn’t slow us down one bit. Still, we were both exhausted by the end of the parade, and we spent the rest of the day drinking ice-cold water as we recovered in the shade. I was especially fatigued since I wore long pants to the parade, but I trucked on and completed the two-mile route while sweating like a pig.
The Fourth of July holds a special place in my heart, partly thanks to this memory. I had never been so proud to be an American as I was that day, and I felt an extra sense of pride walking with the Italian-American Club. The next parade won’t be until 2076 to celebrate America’s 300-year anniversary, and I feel so fortunate to have walked it in my lifetime. I hope the next kids who hand out candy recognize the importance of the parade, and I hope it fills them with as much pride as I felt that day.
Today, I try to make it to as many Fourth of July celebrations as I can. Each parade reminds me of my experience as a kid, and I am filled with nostalgia and happiness when I watch children hand out candy just like I did. This year, I plan on wearing my special shirt, complete with stars and stripes, as I hang out with family and enjoy some delicious food and fireworks. I am so proud to be an American; we live in the best country in the world.
Happy Independence Day!