The 4th of July weekend is one of my favorite times of year. It brings memories of barbecues, sun, friends and family, and fireworks. After college, when I moved to Washington, DC, I became fascinated with American history and developed an even greater appreciation for what the 4th of July meant: Independence and the adoption of the Constitution. So the 4th of July is even more significant – I get to celebrate my own independence (from an abusive husband) and the adoption of my new life.
I don’t know what I’ll end up doing this weekend and that’s cool with me. It’ll actually be the first time in years that we are home. So we’ll just “wing it.” Here are some ideas on my list. They are inexpensive and effortless:
- Picnic: We have amazingly beautiful canyons and parks near us. At least once this weekend, we’ll pack up great food, a few friends, a Frisbee and towels and spend a day hanging out in the beautiful outdoors. Since everything this weekend must be simple, I’ll probably go to my favorite deli and buy everything—yummy sandwiches, hummus, healthy chips, and drinks without aspartame or high fructose corn syrup. There are farmers markets galore here so I’ll stop by one of them on our way up the canyon and load up on fresh, locally grown, organic fruit. In fact, now that I write this, I remember that my mom has a cherry tree in her back yard that is loaded. Maybe I won’t need to buy any fruit at all!
- Swimming: A 4th of July weekend isn’t complete without hanging out at the pool with a magazine, sunscreen, and a comfy chair.
- Movies: I still haven’t seen Maleficent, which I plan to do this weekend. Maybe we’ll catch back-to-back movies at some point this weekend. Why not
- Shopping: I wouldn’t put this on my list at all if I didn’t have two daughters who are desperate to start working on their school wardrobes already. Since this weekend is as much for them as it is for me, we’ll definitely spend a few hours at the shops.
- Hiking: We are going to hike up the Timpanogos Canyon. It is spectacularly beautiful and amazing exercise. I’ll let the girls take all the breaks they want so we won’t be rushed.
- Zoo: We have annual zoo passes and the Hogle Zoo just opened their new tiger section. Maybe we’ll check it out.
- Napping: Since this weekend is supposed to be fun and relaxing, we’ll spend time doing absolutely nothing, like taking a nap. In fact, napping out at the pool sounds like a great idea.
- Exploring: There are a many things to see and do right in our own backyard that we haven’t done yet. We’ll pick at least one of those things to mark off my list, which includes the new aquarium, Antelope Island, the fish hatchery in the Uinta Mountains, horseback riding in Park City, floating the river near Sundance, touring the copper mine, and hiking the trail behind the capitol where the pioneers first entered the Salt Lake valley.
- Fireworks: My boyfriend and I stopped in Wyoming last week and purchased lots of fireworks. My daughters are excited to set them off. We’ll no doubt get through at least two boxes on the 4th and keep going all weekend until they’re gone.
- Smores! I purchased a smores kit and I promised my eight-year-old daughter that we will wait until really late at night, light the fire pit, and make them.
All of this aside, I started thinking about the best 4th of July celebrations I’ve had in my life. As I wrote them, there is one consistent theme that made them all special: spending it with the people I love the most. Celebrating an important day in American history by taking time to laugh and love with my favorite people. My top memories are
- Watching the fireworks from the Iwo Jima Memorial: In 2012, I spent the entire year fighting multiple myeloma. That included undergoing two stem cell transplants. I lost all of my hair, took massive amounts of chemo, and had no immune system at all for several weeks. Between my two stem cell transplants, I needed to do something that took my mind off of cancer. My daughters, parents, brother and I boarded Amtrak and went across the country over a three-week period, with stops in Chicago, Washington DC, and New York. It was a very fun trip. We spent a week in Washington, DC, which encompassed 4th of July. We sat outside at the Iwo Jima Memorial and watched the incredible fireworks explode over the US Capitol and Lincoln Monument. Afterward, we went to the World War II Memorial and FDR Memorial really late at night when it wasn’t too crowded or hot. The next day, we toured Mt Vernon (George Washington’s home), the US Capitol, and the National Archives. My youngest daughter still talks about seeing the Constitution, which really surprises me.
- Touring the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina: When I lived in Washington, DC, my colleague, Terah, and I did a road trip one 4th of July weekend. We drove to Asheville, North Carolina and spent three days touring the Biltmore (the Vanderbilt mansion) and its surrounding property. It was fun, fascinating and educational. We watched the fireworks in many small towns on our drive back to Washington, DC. It’s one of my favorite memories of a time when life was simple and full of promise and hope.
- Hiking Timpanogos Canyon: My last year in college, just weeks before I moved from Salt Lake City to Washington, DC, several of my co-workers and friends hiked up the Timpanogos Canyon and toured the caves. It was so incredible that I vowed to do it again soon. (It took some 22 years before I did it again, but that’s another story.) Afterward, we went to a beautiful park near the Capitol and played croquet, barbecued hot dogs, and watched the fireworks.
- Hanging at the Liberty Bell: One year, my BFF, Julie, and our friend, Ted, drove to Philadelphia and watched the fireworks near the Liberty Bell. Earlier that day, we toured the area where our Founding Fathers wrote and signed the US Constitution. Very cool.
- Catching a concert: Several years ago, I brought my daughter, Morgan, to my parents’ home near Salt Lake City (we were living in San Diego) and we went to the Stadium of Fire concert featuring Martina McBride. Morgan was just four years old and it was her first concert and the first time she really saw fireworks. Watching the amazement in her eyes was incredible. I cried.
To me, 4th of July is about creating memories. And, as simple as our weekend will be this year, that’s exactly what we’re going to do—be together and enjoy.