The blue soon-to-rain morning rang a bell in my mind thereby initiating a vastastion of brooding on the sweep of life under my wings. And as I walked back a few hundred yards, stopped and dwelled on my kithless sojourn in a far-off country, I realized that Fourth of July is on the upcoming Monday. And with that thought, came a train of random images and a bouquet of exotic odors rushing into the sensory jorum: smells of dirt and grass and human sweat, a rainbow of jolly faces, hotdogs and umbrellas, music illegible accompanied by the nectariously soothing paean by the present Homo sapiens directed to the Stars and Stripes—
“Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?”
And then, just like magic, the cinnamon-colored sky is hit by a thousand enchanting arrows of light that would burst on the blank chalk-board above, fountains, spark-foaming rockets. Magical starbursts blushing red and yellow like the cynical play of Northern Lights. And for half an hour the season of dream continues, and all of us on the ground—native, immigrant, F1, H1B, alien worker—feel in our hearts a deep love for a country that adopted us and took us under its aegis, fed us, loved us, and looked after us. During this mystic season of hypnotic light-play, the differences in color or nationality or even social status seldom matters; and every year under the star spangled banner millions of America’s children stand united praising this great country and its big ole heart.
USS Constitution (Picture from the web)
I have under my belt memories of four lovely Fourth of Julys; the first one in Cambridge, MA in 2007. It was raining cats and dogs and my husband and I along with our Korean housemate had walked down to the Cambridge side of Charles River. In the morning we had seen the USS Constitution, the majestic three-masted frigate of the US Navy that is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. On the ramparts of Fort Independence, Castle Island, South Boston, Massachusetts the ship had unleashed its 19-gun salute; and all that while I, still a novice in the country, had been busy inspecting its gunports, its three masts, its quarter-gallery, and its overall grandiose.
The evening fireworks were the icing on my cake; I couldn’t recall another day, except for the first time I observed a snowfall, when I had been so excited about an enigma. It seemed impossible to me that people could have fireworks when it was raining so hard. The Boston Pops performed their rendition of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," and I remember how I had jumped from under the pink umbrella my Korean friend held when I saw the sky ignited by the first arrows of light. To define the next half an hour would be like catching the fragments of cloud, impossible, that is. Yet the major emotional outcome that was the result of the lighted-evening was spellbinding. I remember calling my parents and wishing I could draw before them the lights and shades that mesmerized me.
The rest of my Fourth of Julys have their roots in the Music City of US, Nashville, TN. Our whirlwind of shifting residences from state to state achieved its finale in the buckle of the Bible belt. Nashville had been home to me for three and a half years, and I loved it dearly. I loved its country music; I loved Cracker Barrel, I loved the city’s old homey touch, its retrograded signboards in Broadway, its pubs; I loved the library where I studied, the institution where my husband worked as a post-doctoral research fellow, but most of all, I loved the Fourth of July celebrations at the Riverfront Park.
Every year on the designated day, my husband I would head for the venue well ahead of time to find a nice place close to the riverfront to stand and wait for the fireworks. There would be country music bands, I remember Julianne Hough was there last year, and she was just terribleL Anyway, aside from listening to music, which is usually very good, we would have gyros and sodas and would take a walk down the smelly avenue at the hind side of the location stuffed with people, buyers and sellers, children with balloons and toys. Although we had to elbow our way in and out of the human labyrinth, the crowd never bothered us, the place felt like home. Dressed in my Fourth of July special T-shirt, I would feel I was one of the gang. I knew that in every way I was different from the majority of others, but it never mattered to me.
The firework show generally begins around nine in the evening; and last year after the havoc caused by the historic deluge in our dear old city, we thought that the Fourth of July celebrations would be attenuated. But Nashville proved all speculations wrong when she painted her sky with a stelliferous display of a lifetime. I knew that last year was my final Fourth of July since by that time my husband and I had taken the decision of coming back to India. Academia didn’t seem a sparkling proposition to us anymore; the hurdles were becoming more and more un-climbable. The job cuts, the heated political atmosphere, the sudden slash of opportunities to thrive in an otherwise welcoming nation forced us to search for options outside its borders.
Sitting in India and going back to this oneiric season of celebration, I feel that my vision of America has always been positive and loving. Despite pestilential outbursts from certain prejudiced parties against the embracement of people who are different,I always thought America is an exceedingly tolerant state. My five year stay has made me love this country like a second mother, and even though it’s impossible to convince people who hate differences how much I love the United States of America, I know in my heart that I will always be patriotic to this nation. Far away from my second mother’s bosom, I will celebrate her independence with élan.