This year, 2017, marks our eleventh 4th of July in the USA. It also marks our first Independence Day as American citizens.
We don't usually go to the various fireworks celebrations planned each year, largely due to my aversion for crowds, but this year we (I) decided to make an effort. Difficulty finding a parking spot initially, along with a potentially long trek to the designated viewing spot, left us irritable and thinking we'd have been better off just staying at home.
But, sitting on that small beach in Marion Massachusetts, watching the truly beautiful fireworks display, with patriotic American tunes being loudly belted out by the local brass band, I couldn't help but be overcome by a sense of patriotism, and even pride to be part of the celebration of the birth of this nation.
For anyone who knows me and my heart, this is a huge statement.
My heart will always belong to Africa, more specifically to Zimbabwe, where my story began, and to South Africa where my story continued to unfold. My heart will always be filled with the people of Africa, its landscape and its spirit.
But, sitting on that beach in the enveloping darkness, I began to think that maybe, after 11 years, my heart has finally started to grow a little bigger. It has maybe made room for a new place to be called home.
Sitting on the cool beach sand, embraced by the cooling night air, I was watching my two true-blue American boys happily splashing in the calm ocean water as the descending darkness chased the dusk.
This is their home, and their carefree laughter is the secret code of their brotherly bond.
As the fireworks began, it was as if the rest of the crowd faded away. It was just me; watching the explosions of light and flashes of color illuminate the inky night sky. The reflections on the still ocean water like a mirror of the rite of passage of this nations struggle of all it overcame to gain Independence.
I was overcome too, by sincere gratitude for the current servicemen and women, and veterans, for making our freedom possible. I had a renewed sense of appreciation for the veterans who may not enjoy this time of year because of the flashbacks to times of combat that the firecrackers and fireworks brings...for you I am especially thankful.
I am grateful to live in a country that allows me to sit on a beach, after dark, amongst a crowd of strangers, and not be fearful of an attack or violation of myself or my family.
This, our first Fourth of July as American-South Africans will be one I remember fondly. It will also hopefully be one that my boys reminisce about as they get older; remembered as the warm summer night that they celebrated the nations birth, blanketed by the gently lapping ocean water and caressed by the beams of the moon, intermittently illuminated by the firework flashes of light, pride and celebration.
Happy Fourth of July, America 🇺🇸