Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 7/3/2008 [Archive]

Happy Fourth of July

Martha's Big Adventure - Happy 4th of July

By Martha Randolph Carr

This holiday weekend every town in America big or small is celebrating that we ever came into existence at all. We can whoop it up in amazement that 232 years later we're still here.A lot of differences we have with each other are put aside and we focus on our gratitude instead of our gripes. This year with the news about the economy and the ecology and foreign relations all being equally miserable the reminder of what we have to give thanks for is even more important.

A lot of us have had to rein in our plans to something close at home and curtail any kind of driving around town. Rather than elaborate plans that involve cramming kids and equipment into the car for a long haul we're all being forced to look at options that take less than a gallon of gas round trip and maybe a lot more walking.

We could feel sorry for ourselves that our choices have thinned out from last year or we can take all of this from a different angle. As a country, let's start appreciating what's close at hand and become a part of a local celebration. When I was a kid in the suburbs of Lafayette Hills, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, my siblings and I took part in the local parade put on by the volunteer fire department. My oldest sister, Diana, now a surgeon, used to make our costumes. One year I was a life-sized Declaration of Independence and my older sister, Cary was the Washington Monument. She had to follow the parade route by looking out the little windows at the top of her costume. That year Cary won the prize for 'Best Boy' costume. At the end of the parade route were hotdogs and hamburgers and then the local fireworks. They are still some of my favorite memories forty years later.

My grown son, Louie, still talks about going to Maymont Park in Richmond, Virginia and seeing Uncle Sam on stilts before we'd head over to the West End to watch fireworks crowded onto a blanket between all of our neighbors. As we pulled out picnic baskets and waited for darkness the adults got the chance to spend some time together and catch up on local happenings. Ever since the advent of air conditioning there isn't as much casual hanging-out as there used to be and these are the moments that create the ties that gently bind. In these moments we may learn details that give us a new appreciation for each other and will make it more difficult to feel resentment the next time their kids troop across our grass. It's possible to forget everything we choose to worry about and relax back into the moment as our fond memories mix with watching our kids look up in awe at the fireworks display.

That's the point of the entire celebration. A fun reminder of all that we have to be grateful for two centuries later because a country full of people risked everything to create something we can all enjoy together. It may not always go smoothly and there are always things we'd like to change or adjust or just get rid of but the great news is all of that is attainable.This may be the one place on Earth where each citizen knows that it may not always be easy, but change is always possible. That makes it easier to have those dreams, big and small. There are plenty of hotspots where change for the better isn't even on the list of what can be imagined.

This year is my first in the big city. I'm spending it on the Upper East Side and looking forward to watching New York's version of fireworks with new friends. So, as we all look up in the darkness together, take a moment and feel the connection to the millions of others who are doing the same thing and feel the gratitude wash over a country. More adventures to follow.

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Author's email: or visit

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