• TheOtherMom

The Feeling of Family

The Fourth of July always makes me nostalgic.

For one thing it is my dad's favorite holiday.

Every summer we packed up the car, drove hundreds of miles, and explored the great outdoors this time of year.

My parents were determined for us to see the real beauty the world had to offer, whether it be seeing wildlife inside a national park or sleeping under the stars.

When we asked to go to hotels or theme parks, my dad would scoff at the crowds and the lines and consider the challenge of entertaining 3 kids with nothing more than our imaginations and unlimited amounts of time outside.

As a girl I know I didn’t fully appreciate what they were trying to do.

I didn’t get that loading up the car with everything we needed and sleeping in a tent meant time together we would never again have in this way. For my dad, who worked long hours and was rarely home before 6:00, it meant the world to him.

I didn’t realize that we were learning survival skills that might just come in handy one day.

I didn’t understand that not everyone gets to see real moose and billy goats in the natural environments.

I couldn’t know that one day I’d roast marshmallows with my own kids and the memories would flood me, and I’d feel like I was drowning in them.

Of all the things in my childhood these times stuck with me with a clarity I lacked in other recollections.

I remember the sound of the rivers, the smell of the campfires, the sight of the stars in the sky. I recall the scary stories my dad would tell, and then the sound of everyone breathing while they slept. The feeling of being so close together and so utterly alone when you’re in a tent and the last one to fall asleep.

But more than anything, I remember firework displays all over the country. Each town we’d drive into on the Fourth of July, my parents would find it. And we’d go and sit outside our car and ooooh and ahhhh. It didn’t matter if we were in Colorado or Montana or Wisconsin. We found the firework show and watched it together.

At the time, I just thought I liked the fireworks. Staying up late, the dark sky, the colorful displays.

But now, looking back, I remember sitting on my mom's lap and coordinating my vocal appreciations with my dad. I remember clutching my brother's hand as we navigated a crowd. Our eyes meeting as we lit sparklers.

I remember the feeling. The feeling of family.

Things changed as we got older. We started going to the fireworks with friends. I watched the displays without my parents and brothers. And now, with a family of my own, I take my kids to the fireworks and they sit on my lap and we ooh and ahh in appreciation at the same time. It’s come full circle.

It’s this time of year when you realize, as a mom, the huge gift your own parents bestowed on you. You sit in awe at how selfless they were.

And you realize you’re doing the exact same thing for your own children. Creating these memories around the celebrations.

This year, the fireworks in our town have been canceled. It could be disappointing but I clearly remember a year driving into a Colorado mining town and as we inquired about the firework show, we learned it had been cancelled.

I may have shed a tear at the time but it did nothing to lessen the feeling of family I had that day and every summer.

So as you think about what to do this year when everything is different, remember that to a kid, that feeling doesn't need anything big to help it unfold.

The feeling of family is time together, whatever you are doing.

So do the best you can with whatever you have-that is all you really need.

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