Welcome, My Brit Friends, To Independence Day


Well, Britain has finally done what our forefathers did so long ago — escape Europe.

Oh, OK. I admit there are a few tiny differences. Our ancestors, for instance, had to cross the ocean in a leaky boat, set up camp on what they considered barren land (the natives begged to differ) and build houses out of trees. Brits have to start checking more visas at the airport.

Still, I personally invite them to celebrate with us on Independence Day this Monday.

For you Brits unfamiliar with the traditions surrounding Fourth of July celebrations, let me provide a thumbnail sketch.

Your alarm clock wakes you up in the morning like any other day except — tada! — you don’t have to go to work. You can hit the snooze button for hours or simply pull the wretched plug out of the wall.

The kids, as always, will be sitting in the living room with cartoons and a bowl of cereal, but today — yippee! — you can join them. SpongeBob SquarePants never looked so good. (Yes, Mr. Union Jack, Americans know how to make money using a line drawing of a yellow square.)

When you’ve finished your Cheerios, you will go into the kitchen to put your bowl in the dishwasher and you will notice that your wife is baking a rectangular yellow cake. She tells you that later, she will frost this cake using strawberries and blueberries to look like the American flag, while you will call forth your inner caveman to grill up the rest of the dinner outside on the barbecue.

This job is not to be taken lightly, and you know it. So you head out to the grocery store for hamburger meat, hotdogs, marshmallows and everything else that tastes 50 times better when eaten outdoors. You will have to go back later because you forgot the buns, but don’t worry, Newbie, everybody forgets the buns!

You will be outside cleaning and preparing the grill for a 4 p.m. start time when the kids come tumbling out the back door, courtesy of your wife. They will quite naturally gather around you, bobbing and chirping, and want to “help” with the wire bristle brush or the propane tank, and it will be up to you to distract them by setting up the sprinkler or filling 500 water balloons.

Promptly at 4 p.m., you will begin preparing the feast while your wife sets the picnic table. A red-and-white checked tablecloth with blue paper plates is not mandatory but is highly recommended.

The children, like intuitive ants, will descend immediately, plopping their wet bathing suits down on every single dry chair cushion and whining about having to wait.

At long last, dinner will be served, marshmallows will be toasted and flag cake will be served. It will be your job to clear the table while your wife gets everyone into cute little red, white and blue outfits for the final leg of the journey — a trek to the local park for the viewing of fireworks.

There will be music and maybe some running races. Then, as the sun sets, the lighting of dangerous sparklers which, despite hundreds of parental admonitions not to do so, will be lit and tossed into the air. There will be crying as a few eventually step onto hot wires that have fallen to the ground in the dark, and then the first big boom as the fireworks show begins.

Then follows the very best part of the day, with children nestled against their parents, their beautiful pristine faces filled with awe and lit in pastel shades as each explosion goes off in its turn. The show will go long, children will begin to get sleepy and everyone will drag themselves to the car for the ride home.

Along the way, we will give thanks for our freedom. It’s like Thanksgiving, only louder and more sparkly.

Thanksgiving, you ask? Well, more about that in November.