Following the 4th (which was a late, late night by the time the concert was over, the stage was struck, and at least some of the instruments shepherded home), I exchanged some emails with a close friend about the holiday. In the first, I commented: I am on alert this morning after a hectic yesterday. The saving grace was that due to weather concerns, I did not have to worry about helping Aunt Ginger navigate uneven terrain or uneven memory. She, my mom, and my dad all passed on last night's concert. Huge worry/burden off my shoulders. Spent the concert with longtime friends--we have celebrated the 4th together since Sam was a baby. They are also dealing with a parent with dementia, so Sally, Chris, and I exchanged war stories.
My friend commented back somewhat wistfully that her 4th of July lacked definition, because she had never "really figured out" how to celebrate the day. She and her husband have no particular traditions, the large urban area in which they live has multiple fireworks displays on different days, and her nod to the day was spooning blueberries and strawberries over vanilla frozen custard. She concluded that my 4th of July, this one or any of them, sounded more stressful but more interesting.
My friend's words caused me to think about the whole holiday. Eventually, I penned this response:
I enjoy 4th of July, except for the increasing length of it, which is all due to the Symphony. Last night it was about 11:30 before we rolled out out of campus and headed home with full vans/cars to unload. One of the trustees (our backyard neighbor, a good friend of many years, AND the judge I work for) came home with me for the final unloading, then strolled out the back deck door to his home.
That being said, what I like best about the community concert is just that: community. I know the men and women staffing the Kiwanis food trailer (hot dogs! Klondike bars! popcorn! brats!); I know the fire chief (a friend) and the firefighters setting off the theater cannons for the 1812 Overture, I know lots of faces in the audience. As I already mentioned, I sat with friends for the 23rd or 24th year in a row. Other very close friends were right behind me (and I handed Gerald a small pie and Margo a page torn from the latest Writer's Digest). People calling back and forth, hugs, laughter. Veterans standing during the Armed Forces Salute and the crowd applauding. Cheers for the musicians, everyone on their feet for the Stars and Stripes Forever, clapping in rhythm to the music, seeing the brass rise to their feet for the last repeat. Even striking the stage afterwards is good—people stopping up to exclaim (those who do not rush to the fireworks, which are really good in Delaware), sending Jaime (conductor) and his wife on their way back to Cincinnati with pie (of course) and hugs and kisses, laughing with the other volunteers as we celebrate another 4th over, the quiet of being the very last 4 or 5 people on campus after the sound truck pulls away.
The 4th of July concert is Delaware at its best, and with the exception of Legal Clinic, the night I feel closest and most connected to this community.I continue to have a bumpy relationship with my hometown, even 25+ years after I moved back. I have learned to take it for better or for worse, but there are still many times I put my head in my hands and groan, or run into an unexpected or unpleasant barrier that reminds me why I left so adamantly over four decades ago.
But the last line rings true: the 4th of July is Delaware at its best. The 4th of July is the night I feel closest and most connected to the community.
And that's not a bad way to celebrate Independence Day, by celebrating the interconnectedness of us all.