What Independence Day Means to Me

Independence Day has meant many things to me over the years.

As a child it meant a sense of freedom

On July 2nd, the day it was legal in Kansas to start buying - and subsequently letting off - fireworks, my parents would give me a little money and would send me off on my bike to the nearest firework stand. I would spend every cent on a little of everything, but mostly firecrackers. I would then do nothing over those next three days than creeping about the neighborhood. So I'd hope on the bike, ride over to the nearest firework stand, spend all the money I was given on firecrackers. I would then do nothing over the next three days expect for creeping about the neighborhood, blowing stuff up.

See, back then, it was not uncommon for parents to hand their kids a bag of explosives and set loose upon the world. Maybe it's still the same today, I don't know.

Later in life, in my young adult years, Independence Day meant fear and loneliness. I wanted to hang with my friends and celebrate the holiday, but when they got together with fireworks, things got ugly. We would meet at one particular house and then suddenly war would break out. My friends would chase each other, and me, around the outside of the house while shooting bottle rockets and roman candles at each other, and me. As I have ever shied away from being hit by fire, I'd typically find myself spending the holiday alone.

Once I became a father, Independence Day meant seclusion, horror, and torture. My son, who is autistic, was deathly afraid of loud noises during the first few years of his life. The the violent eruptions of firecrackers and M-80s would send him screaming, and in a small town in Kansas, it's not easy to avoid such things. So we'd taken to running the air conditioner and fans, turning all of the televisions up loud, and running any other white noise device in a futile attempt to mask the explosions around the house. It was always a difficult time and one we would always dread.

My son has since gotten over his fears as he matured and we have been known over the last couple of years to go out and watch the fireworks at night, and it's something that we now all look forward to.

My wife and I still shudder now and again however, as we think back to those years and the torture my boy went through, and we count our blessings knowing that our boy has grown so much. So nowadays, Independence Day is a reminder of how far my son has come, and it makes me smile.

So this year, when you go out to blow stuff up, you may have families around you that are in the same situation mine was in not that long ago, so just keep that in mind, and have a happy and safe holiday.

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