Katie: Go Fourth!

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. It never struck me as commercial as, say, Christmas. The 4th is really about family and shared experiences and hopefully, beautiful weather. There's a wonderful simplicity about the holiday — and the food. Ripe tomatoes, corn on the cob (though it's a tad early for the primo versions of both) strawberries, peaches, cherries ... hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill ... my mom's potato salad, which always rocked.

We used to spend many Fourth of Julys with our family, friends and neighbors, the Crosman's, in Arlington, Va. Mrs. Crosman (who now lives in Maine — if you're reading this, Hi, Mrs. Crosman!) always whipped up something creative. But first, my friend Sara and I would light snakes on the sidewalk (remember those ... little bits of charcoal that would grow and look like snakes when you lit them?) and of course, sparklers as the grown-ups set up roman candles and the like. One year, Mrs. Crosman, who is a fabulous cook, scooped out the fruit (or meat, I guess?) from a watermelon and filled it with raspberry sherbet and used chocolate chips to simulate the seeds. Its funny how a simple thing like that is so vivid to me many, many years later.

I grew up outside Washington, D.C., and I still have wonderful memories of going with my family into Washington to watch the fireworks on the mall, near the Washington monument. I remember thinking they were coming right toward me; I wasn't scared, just mesmerized. The innocent patriotism of the Fourth is something we can all celebrate, no matter how much our difference, or different points of view divide us.

I think of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who helped draft the Declaration of Independence, which of course is what we're celebrating when we celebrate the Fourth of July. They didn't always see eye to eye on our country's directions and policies — Jefferson in fact defeated Adams when Adams tried for a second term as President—but they died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day of American independence. Coincidence, perhaps, but people at the time saw it as divine acceptance of our young nation.

My children are both away, so the fourth won't be the same for me this year, though fireworks always bring out the childlike wonder in all of us. I hope they'll remember the fourths we've already enjoyed. My 11-year-old once wrote a poem about how warm she felt watching the fireworks while sitting next to me on a blanket (it was brilliant, of course.)

Meanwhile, I hope you have a wonderful holiday and spend it creating memories for your children — memories that will hopefully stay with them perhaps their entire lives.