The Fireworks of an American Memoir

This week Americans across the country will flock to beaches, rivers, open fields and even the seat in front of their TV and computer screens—to watch Independence Day fireworks. If you’re an American, how many times have you done that? It’s a ritual, and it’s the kind of memory that might find its way into an American’s memoir.

Maybe you watched the fireworks display with a bunch of neighborhood kids, or perhaps your whole family carried lawn chairs to an appointed spot. You might have ridden your bike or taken a bus provided free for the community. Perhaps one year you were sick and couldn’t attend; another year maybe your town didn’t have the funds to put on the expected show. Maybe some of you first set eyes on your future spouse at a July 4 event!

An annual fireworks display may seem minor when you’re listing your life’s major milestones. But the way Americans share this tradition is etched into all of our minds. When you describe where the event was held when you were a child, how you got there and what all you dragged with you—everything from your dog and binoculars to the picnic basket and your favorite blanket—it resonates with your children and grandchildren who share the same type of event but under circumstances that reflect a more modern era.

Don’t take these moments for granted. They illustrate the culture that defined you as you grew up. They show how those times are different from today as well as all the aspects that are surprisingly similar. Every country and culture share traditions. In the U.S., the July 4 week is one of our strongest times of unity and affection—a summertime break with hot dogs, beer, music and those colorful lights in the sky that go “boom.” Somehow both nostalgic and current, it’s the kind of story you can tuck into a memoir to reveal something about your past, pipe up with a little about your attitudes and lay out a snapshot of everyday American life.