The Fourth of July means many different things to me. It’s my great-nephew Louis’s birthday (happy birthday, Louis). It was my maternal grandparents’ wedding anniversary, and also the anniversary of my aunt and uncle.
While I was growing up, this double anniversary (and on Independence Day!) always meant a big party with as many family members as possible, a picnic lunch that stretched on into dinner time, and the backyard fireworks that were usual in the 60s and 70s, including many that are now banned. I can’t argue with that decision since one of my most vivid Fourth of July memories is of my father nailing “pinwheels” to the trees, lighting them, and running away to the assumed safety of the patio, where we watched them whirl and throw out fiery colors in all directions until one leapt off the tree and rolled, still spitting colorful fire, directly up onto the patio. I can still see my family wildly scattering in all directions. That was probably forty years ago and I still laugh when I remember it.
As a pet professional, the Fourth of July is a cause for dread. More pets flee in terror from their yards and homes on that day than on any other in the year. So I spend July 2nd and 3rd posting warnings on my Facebook business page, reminding pet owners to put clear identification on their pets, listing ways to help terrified dogs and cats, and urging people to keep their animals indoors and safe.
One odd thing about the Fourth of July when my family and I lived in Seattle is that it was the last day of drizzly, drippy spring. Always. I swear to you, without exception and without fail it rained on the Fourth of July (continuing a rainy season that had actually begun in October). I remember this vividly because I had young children and we lived in an unincorporated area where we could set off our own fireworks, something they looked forward to every year. We never allowed ourselves to get rained out, but we certainly got rained on every single year while trying to keep sparklers lit, sending little fire-shooting cannons rolling toward hapless green toy soldiers (war is hell), and blinking back raindrops while looking up at the rocket’s red glare. The next day – July 5 – would dawn rainless, and the high temperature would read 20 degrees above the previous day’s; the first day of our summer. Don’t ask me why this happened, or whether climate change has ruined this pattern. But my kids and neighbors will bear me out — it always rained on the Fourth of July in Seattle.
But one aspect of Independence Day that does not speak to me is the “Independence” part. Because, to be honest, our separation from Britain has not been a great thing for me, personally. Yes, 240 years ago the colonists might have had perfectly good reasons for wanting to revolt, and that’s all fine and good. But can we really look at Britain today and say, oh yes, we are so lucky to be no part of that? Well, possibly after the fantastically crazy week the UK has just had politically, we might; not that we aren’t having our own political insanity this year (a serving of grain from the Pyramids, anyone?). But overall, is America really lots more generally fantastic than Britain is?
How many of you wish you were at least somewhat British? Raise your hands. Of course you do! Who wouldn’t want a sexy accent, tea and chocolate biscuits every afternoon, seriously good soccer, and Stonehenge? Not everyone wants the Royal Family, even in Britain, but I certainly do. I couldn’t care less if the Queen has no power in governing the UK; she is an awesome presence and apparently immortal. The young Royals coming up are photogenic and charming. Why should they also need to be functional? Watching the doings of the Royals in the tabloids, which range from lovely to embarrassing, leaves Britain free to produce gloriously talented, well-spoken, and dignified actors (Judy Dench, Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson…need I go on?). Since we have no Royals to gawk at, we are reduced to ogling our gossip-rag-worthy actors who are often better known for their off-screen peccadillos than for their great performances, not to mention talentless “celebrities” such as “the Kardashians” and their accessories (Caitlyn Jenner, Kanye West, et al). I’m telling you, none of those people would be famous if we had a Royal family. Brits: it’s worth paying the Royals well just to avoid that fate.
Everyone who knows me well knows that I have always pined for the life I’ve visited often but have never been able to live full-time in Britain. I don’t want pizza, I want chicken-and-veg pie. I don’t want to go to a bar where strangers drink in solitude and watch big sports screens, I want a “local” pub, at least one or two hundred years old, where I can have a pint of cider, join the pub quiz team, and play pool or darts with other “regulars”. I want to hear, see, and breathe the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the cliffs outside my small but charming cottage. I want “Springwatch” and “Country File” on TV, not reruns of “Gilligan’s Island” and creepy adshow things like “Got A Turkey Neck?” I want to listen every day to that one radio station that plays the eeriest variety of songs drawn from all eras of my own life (what is that station, and who is feeding them my musical history?). I don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the vast and bleak Midwest (apologies to Cahokia, you are the one exception); I want most of my island home to be a day trip away, with historical wonders worth a visit in every direction.
But Britain doesn’t let just anyone come and live there. Even foreign spouses of Brits only have a 60% chance of being given the key to the country. I am an ex-spouse, and an ex-colonist too old to be of practical interest to the UK. If we had only voted Remain in 1776, as Canada and Australia did in their turns, I would be able to pack my bags and try my dream on for size. As it is …
You bet I’ll find a way. Stay tuned. And Happy 4th of July, you goofy patriots, you. Be grateful that you live in the country you love. Someday I will, too.