It was nice having a holiday in the middle of the week. We thought we might get up early and make the parade, but no. The kids played, we stayed in pajamas, drinking our coffee, enjoying not making lunches, not getting anyone ready for camp. We made plans to go to a neighbor's backyard barbecue in the afternoon. The kids made American flags with red, white and blue paper (and googly eyes). Brian took his car apart and fixed something.
I remembered reading that Bayou Bend had a family day planned, with a reading of the Declaration of Independence. I wanted Miles to understand what we were celebrating. That the Fourth of July is one of the least boring holidays on the calendar. That there was a king, and a war, and rockets and ramparts and bombs.
We were running late, but we got there just as the was heading down to the lawn. The costumes must have been stifling in the heat. Miles noticed the bayonets right away.
Listening to the Declaration of Independence read out loud is a completely difference experience to reading it on the page. Such dusty old words, suddenly alive. Historian John Keahey (dressed as a captain in the Continental army) spoke for a few minutes about the men who wrote and signed the Declaration, about how they knew that if they lost the war, their signatures would be their death sentence.
It was the recitation of the grievances against King George III was the most relevatory. "The History of the present King of Great Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object and Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States." As Brian put it, the Declaration is the original lawyer's fuck you letter. "We, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS...solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE, and INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown..." Makes sense I guess, since 24 of the 56 signers were lawyers.
At the conclusion of the reading, the crowd sang happy birthday to America, and then lined up for birthday cake. Way better than fireworks.
The kids, right before they took off their shoes and jumped in the fountain.