Bargell: Even without fireworks, the sparks still fly in Summit County (column)
Solemnizing the Fourth, 2018.
The recent, and surely welcome, ban on fireworks sparked a memory latent in my brain. No pun intended and no risk of spontaneous combustion. It was six years ago that our local governments banned fireworks, and at the time it seemed a major bummer. In 2012, my reference point was (and still remains), the age of our two girls, then 11 and 12. At that time, and likely just as often now, the context was music. When the first ban occurred I wrote about Katy Perry’s song “Firework,” a popular coming of age ode that dominated the airwaves the preceding fall. Perry’s lyric encouraged any discouraged individuals to find that special spark inside, and to light it up like the 4th of July. The meaning resonated in the wake of the ban, where we all had the opportunity to realize just how bright Summit County shines, even without a pyrotechnic display. One needed only to notice the night sky, or the megawatt smile of a youngster pedaling down Frisco Main Street.
The column then took a sharp turn from Perry to John Adams. While the segue might seem mystifying, both shared enthusiasm for lighting up the night sky. Adams was an original promoter of our current patriotic Fourth, writing in 1776 that “the day will be most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
I’m not sure why Adams came to mind again this year, although in rereading his admonishment, my thoughts shifted from illumination to considering what it might mean to solemnize the occasion. My change in focus likely relates to the six years that have passed since our last firework ban. You see, my reference points have aged, and at 17 and 18 our little girls are young women. Time all together as a family grows remarkably short as our oldest heads off to college in a few weeks, and we know too just how quickly the next year will pass with our baby who also is quite eager to spread her wings.
The early morning hours of this July Fourth I found myself at a sunrise yoga class. The teacher opted for a non-traditional, at least in the yoga context, music selection. Starting with a folk rendering of “This Land is Your Land” and ending with an amazing piano interpretation of “America the Beautiful,” it was enough to make you weep. Instead of reading from the Bhagavad Gita, or something customarily more yoga-centric, she instead closed class with the first lines of the Constitution, conjuring the spirit of the holiday.
It was then the tears did indeed begin to flow as it hit hard what it really might mean to solemnize this day. I could not stop thinking about all of the parents, generation after generation, who, just like us, had 18-year-old children. Instead of sending them off to college, or arguing over car keys, they were called upon to kiss their young men and women goodbye. Sending them off on trains or planes across the country, and across the world to defend our country, never knowing if that kiss or hug at the station would be the last. All too often I fear it was, and frankly, I just can’t imagine. Still I need to, we all need to, in order to understand what it means to solemnize, and in reverence make sacred, July 4th. It can never be cliché, nor should it grow old to recognize — generation after generation — that men and women have given up their light so that ours might shine. Adams acknowledged this as well, concluding his 1776 letter with the understanding, “I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states.”
In this day and age of political acrimony I wonder what might be fitting to honor over 200 years of sacrifice of blood and treasure. Perhaps it’s as simple as trying to make someone’s day brighter, even — or especially — when it is someone we disagree with. Or, recognizing we have the right to express differing views because a neighbor’s son or daughter, parent, brother or sister gave their life for this privilege. Respecting one another seems a small offering in return.
Yesterday’s music gave my July 4th special meaning once again, from “America the Beautiful” to the Summit Concert Band’s rousing tribute to our armed forces. When the Marine Corps march played, I whispered a thank you to my pop who spent his 18th year on a boat somewhere in the South Pacific. I thought too of so many other 18-year-olds across our nation, and closer to home, including recent Summit High graduate Kyle Wertz, who will soon start their own journey to defend our freedom. Their light just cannot be taken for granted, and, in Adams’ words, solemnizing these sacrifices is right “from this time forward forever more.”
Cindy Bargell is an attorney, parent and Summit school board member. The views in this column are her own. She welcomes your comments at Cindy@visanibargell.com.
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