The Fourth of July — it’s been 237 years since our country began its formidable existence on the day we declared our independence from British rule.
It’s been a struggle of ups and downs to bring us to where we stand today — a nation enduring to grow stronger yet.
It’s the day to break out the red, the white and the blue and celebrate our blessed nation’s birth.
And it’s a day that’s grown to have a variety of ways to celebrate.
For me, and many others I know, the Fourth of July has been a day of cooking out, picnics, fireworks and camaraderie.
As far as I can remember, my family has been pretty enthusiastic when it comes to the Fourth — but not in a big crowd.
Growing up we liked doing stuff at home.
Of course, there’s always that neighbor who likes to host his own show. Very few places where I’ve called home did not have a neighborhood Fourth of July show.
When I was little, my parents would gather us in the back of the house to watch a neighbor shoot off fireworks.
My first memory of seeing the powerful, noisy fireworks came from that neighbor high on the hill — the same neighbor, by the way, whose children sent a tire down the hill into the back door of my parents’ home, shattering the glass door across the kitchen floor.
But I digress.
It was the first time I remembered staying awake long past bedtime to see what I thought was a spectacular light show.
My mom and dad set us up in the kitchen by the back door — the mosquitoes like to chew on my mother and I, so watching from indoors was likely her idea.
They turned off the kitchen light, so we were left sitting in the dark, waiting for the inevitable to begin.
I was stunned by the first one, both with the visual display and the noise. Then one by one, the people on the hill shot off some beautiful fireworks.
My parents would get us sparklers and those ever-growing “snakes,” and some years he would buy some extra fireworks for us to see. His favorite Fourth of July “firework,” however, is getting a red roll of paper “caps,” sitting one roll on the sidewalk, and smashing it with a baseball bat.
Believe me, it makes a pretty impressive boom.
Another memory I have comes from my 20s. I went with my family to visit relatives in northeastern Pennsylvania, and that year we stayed for nearly a week.
It was a great day — I spent much of it with my late Uncle Pat and his family. They had an above-ground pool, and we hung out there much of the day. My parents returned to my grandparents house late in the afternoon, but I decided to stay behind.
And I will forever be grateful for the decision.
I got to listen to my uncle play guitar, which until that day I never knew he played. He even had demos cut of his music and singing, which I was very fortunate enough to hear. I didn’t know it then, but I am now very glad I was able to revel in his talent.
I also got to spend some quality time with my Aunt Darcy and her two oldest daughters — we sat outside next to the pool smoking and talking long past sunset.
I was also lucky enough to have my first meeting with my youngest cousin on that trip — who has now graduated from college.
But for me the Fourth has always meant a day to spend watching fireworks and visiting with friends and family.
In an effort to keep up with tradition, I even delved into my own fireworks show about a decade ago.
And of course, being a clumsy person, that may not have been such a hot plan — pardon the unintentional pun there.
I did all right for the bulk of what I blew up and sent into the sky, but there was one errant firework that nearly burned the rental property down. Instead of a straight shot up into the clouds, this one decided to take a curvy path to oblivion and crash down on the roof.
And burn and burn and burn.
The only damage left was the scorch marks, and no one but me really seemed to notice.
Thankfully — but it broke me from wanting to host my own show again.
A few years ago I stayed in a campground in east Tennessee, and the owners there put together a nice fireworks display — it lasted much longer than many of the big ones put on by cities and towns across the country.
But the one constant that stayed, with however I celebrated the holiday, was being with family and friends.
It’s one of those holidays for me that doesn’t require much monetary obligation — it just requires the time to sit, relax and enjoy that we live in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
John Ross is a reporter for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org