fourthofjuly.jpg When the thumping of fireworks splattering across the night sky reverberates within my own chest, rivaling my heart, I know without a doubt how lucky I am. How lucky to be here in this country where my right to speech and faith and the pursuit of happiness are protected. Lucky to be here in this town where folks wear their patriotism on their rolled up, hard-working sleeves. Lucky to have a husband who squeezes my arm in time to the music behind the firework show, kissing my nose between the glorious, colorful pops in the sky.

It is a good feeling. And, although I was less than impressed with the renditions of the cliche Fourth of July songs chosen as this year's soundtrack, I was comforted by the sentiments. Hearing "I am proud to be an American" and "The Truth goes marching on" and "America, America, God shed his grace on thee"... without the protestations of the "lefties and greenies" who seem so noisy the rest of the year, that is something I love.

I wish we, those of us who love our country enough to congregate with family and barbecue until we're too tired to move, I wish we would take the time to be more blatant about our love of country the rest of the year. Why only once? Why only in the months following tragedy?

Tonight I watched every kind of person, representatives of every walk of life, every race, every religion, every level of education and class, streaming toward the flat, welcoming field of green. They spread out their blankets and were careful where they set their keys. They readied cameras and kicked soccer balls, munched on kettle corn and swung laughing children through the air by their ankles and wrists. They bobbed their heads to the music, smiling at the words. They watched one another. They made eye contact with me. They nodded and knew me, a neighbor, a friend, a fellow patriot.

Jon and I tossed a frisbee around with Cindy and Jason. Grass crunched cold under my toes and I snagged the frisbee from the air, biting my lip when the spinning momentum made my chilly fingers sting. Jon clapped for me and I bowed. It was a terrific catch. It was something to remember.

With the first big bang we raced back to our blankets and curled up, wrapped up to keep warm, and straining to hear the music above the explosions. Jon took pictures and I hummed along to the songs I knew. As always, it was the classics, the George M. Cohan songs that make me think of Jimmy Cagney tapping away and stubbornly waving that grand old flag, those warmed my heart the most.

After the firework show, which needed better music but remained amazing after one of the most spectacular finales I've seen in ages, Jon pulled me up and we danced in the center of the field. It was our third Independence Day together, and each year we dance. He touched his nose to mine, cold and loving, an eskimo kiss. And once again, for the zillionth time today, I felt unbelievably lucky.

(My family's second annual Fourth of July Scar Belly Open was today. We came in second. Dad and Mom have a trophy as evidence of their victory. We will unseat them next year. We will reign supreme.)