I'm not exactly the biggest patriot. The 4th of July is cool and all, but it's not really my thing.
I’m just not all that patriotic because of well, reasons, which might explain why I keep packing up and leaving the country. Granted, France isn’t exactly the best alternative, but while I was over there last year, I celebrated Independence Day by forgetting about it until the afternoon, and then eating hamburger-shaped gummy candies with my American flatmate. So instead of trying to make something poetic out of my very pleasant, but otherwise unremarkable 4th of July this year, I’ll just describe one special America Day journey from years ago.
Let me just take this moment to say that this is one of very few instances I can ever describe my mother's and father’s actions as “bad parenting.” In their defense, we were equally guilty of bad childrening.
This was in the era of all four Hamilton kids knocking around in the same house, old enough to express our own thoughts and opinions but too young for it to make any difference. Naturally this was frustrating for us, and what we did not realize was that it was also frustrating for our parents, who had to cater to four separate misguided senses of independence. Nevertheless, they wrangled all of us into the minivan to spend a lovely 4th of July evening at the Shelby Farms fireworks spectacular.
First off, the traffic was awful. The minivan inched up Farm Rd, its wheels making a full revolution once every 5 minutes or so, as the sun went down and early arrivals took all the good spots. So once we finally parked and pushed each other out of the car, we were stuck in a sub-optimal viewing point. Mom and Dad set up the foldable camp chairs, the first time in a while those seats had touched any grass other than the turf at Mike Rose Soccer Complex. My brothers were not having it. Ben and John were adamant about hearing the concerts playing at the center of the park, and Thomas didn’t want to be there at all. I wasn’t causing too much trouble at this point, although I have no doubt I found something to complain about.
Ben and John decided they would just cut through the park to get to the music, which involved crossing some fences. Now, the reason these fences exist is that they contain herds of bison, animals which the park officials usually take good care to keep separate from fragile, maul-able young boys. Mom tried to go with them for protection--although I have no clue how she could have protected anybody from a bison stampede, but she turned back for a reason that I cannot remember but was probably justified.
Meanwhile, back at the camp chairs, Thomas’s misery was rubbing off on the rest of the group. He always had a special talent for intentionally ostracizing himself from his immediate family. I truly believe that at this age he would have been relieved to find out that he was adopted. So, finally, having returned from the bison field, haggard, caked in mud, and worried for her two middle children, Mom let Thomas know that if he wanted to leave so badly, then he should just go. So he did.
We had to keep the van for the rest of the family at Shelby Farms, though, and Uber wasn’t a thing, so he walked. Thomas embarked on a dark eight-mile trek--a lone teen strolling down the length of Walnut Grove Rd on a somber Memphis Independence Day's night.
As for me, it was a mostly uneventful evening, except that on the way out, having recovered Ben and John and getting updates from trekkin’ Thomas, my distracted parents failed to notice that I was toddling straight for a cattle grate. I fell knee-deep between the bars that are actually designed to trap escaped bison, not small girls such as myself. I was immediately bruised up and wailing.
So, finally, our little caravan headed back home, trundling down Walnut Grove as though it were the Oregon Trail, suffering from exhaustion, a leg wound, bison intimidation, and desertion. Thankfully, no dysentery, at least not this time. But we made it to that good, sweet promised land where Thomas was safely waiting, and we collapsed into our beds, having triumphed against all odds like the settlers of old in our (so-called) land of the free.