My obsessive-compulsive Independence Day

I almost hesitate to tell you about my weekend plans, lest some American Revolution buff tells me I’m ungrateful and unpatriotic. I’m not either of those things. I vote and donate blood (hey, my veins are blue and my blood is red….how do you like that?). However, I do like English people. And yet, I like religious freedom. I’m somewhat ambivalent about tea but I think Boston and powdered wigs kick ass. I have witnessed ugly American syndrome abroad and briefly wished people would mistake me for Canadian. The feeling passed (not that there’s anything wrong with Canada). There’s enough nationalistic awesomeness to go around. We can all be proud of where we are from without having to quantify why it’s “better” than someplace else. How zen of me.

So I do not have anything against the 4th of July; love it, glad I live here. But what I cannot, for the life of me, understand are fireworks and parades. I absolutely don’t get it. And I acknowledge that at least part of the reason is my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Fireworks make a mess, sweaty people gather dirt, I get claustrophobic in crowds, etcetera. If people like doing those things, more power to them. I mean, they probably would see me sitting quietly in my backyard with my eyes closed and wonder “what’s up with you lady?” What’s up with me is that I don’t like fireworks or parades. To me, fireworks look the same every year. It’s kind of like knowing the end of the story. I’m always slightly disappointed, especially after the packing up of the car and jockeying for a prime viewing spot (which always seems to be dusty and have litter involved). The ones you light yourselves freak my dog out and leave black marks on your driveway and spent bottle rocket remains in my front yard. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy them, just that they are something so many people seem to enjoy but I cannot bring myself to (kind of like animated movies and ham). I wish I could but I’d rather be reading a book (I’d rather be reading a book than doing lots of things, actually).

OK, parades. Parades? I’m sure that there’s a good reason why parades started in the old days, and that reason is mostly that people didn’t have TVs or shopping malls. The benefit of parades is doing some hard core people watching. The thing is, you can do that any time without sweaty elbows in your face and fighting for parking. Don’t even get me started on horse poop.  I’ve never watched a parade and said “wow, that was awesome; I’m glad I sat in the sun for 6 hours.” If you have a kid in a parade or something, I get it. You are there to watch your kid. Otherwise, I don’t really see the appeal. The ROI just isn’t there.

I’m not trying to be a grouch. I love barbecue-ing on the 4th weekend and swimming and spending time with friends and eating things that are artificially colored in red and blue. But I heard the news folks this morning start to talk about fireworks this weekend and all I could think is “Oh no, do we have to do this again?”


Comments (25)

  1. HeatherLeigh says:

    Grr, my blog is eating comments. Sorry, Wisecarver, I lost yours. Please report if you can.

  2. Bill says:

    You would really have fun in a state where people buy their own fireworks by the ton. Then you can worry about them burning your house down.

    Happy 4th.

  3. Joe Enos says:

    I agree – I don’t really understand the big attraction to fireworks.  Especially since they really haven’t changed as long as I can remember – you’d think that technology would have evolved to include more fancy stuff like lasers and holograms.

  4. Lauren Smith says:

    Joe, if they could create fireworks that don’t create smoke, that would a true breakthrough in fireworks. Whether it is your little sparklers or your New Year’s Eve show over the Lk Washington, the smoke is too thick by the end.

  5. Hi Heather,

    You and I have similar roles, we both care for others…

    I’m 100% Patriot but we can get along, we’re pals.

    I honestly believe that helps to make this country even better.

    Happy 4th 🙂

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Bill- I think I have lived there before. Or maybe that was just the seventies 🙂

    Joe Enos – yeah, people could just go buy a Lite Brite, even.

    Lauren- I haven’t ever seen those fireworks over Lake Washington except on TV. I guess they are really that smokey, huh?

    Mark – I’m 100% patriot too! I love this country. Love it enough to disagree with a lot of the things we do. I don’t think that makes me any less patriotic. The country was started by people who disagreed with something.  I guess where I have trouble is around the rhetoric involved with patriotism. Some people seem to need to have other nations acknowledge that we are "better than" them. I don’t have that need. I can find things to appreciate about other countries, even if I prefer to be American. Anyway, I don’t think that you were trying to imply that I’m not patriotic 🙂 It was just the "but" that had me confused there!

  7. Absolutely. 🙂

    You make a very good point…

    I do not believe that we, or I, am better than anyone.

    My lovely wife after all is Brazilian. 😉

    (Our three children have dual citizenship.)

  8. Kim says:

    I don’t like the neighborhood fireworks.  Admittedly, I loved  lighting them off as a kid.  But now they just seem an unnecessary nuisance that freaks out my dog (er, MY kid) – and that makes me angry.  He doesn’t understand them.  Makes my heart feels heavy to see him uncontrollably pant and shake.  Overproctective?  Perhaps.  But unpatriotic?  I don’t think so.  

    Still enjoy small town parades, though, when I come across them — a little slice of Americana to me.  That WARMS my heart 🙂

    Happy 4th!

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Kim – yep, I think we are both subject to a doggy freak-out tonight.

  10. Geezer says:

    Your fireworks comment rings closely to me like those folks of the "you’ve seen one sunset, you’ve seen ’em all" persuasion; they never appreciate the unique and sheer beauty of either because they skip right past that to the "generic". They don’t appreciate, or even bother to think about much less recognize, the trees because they always skip that to superficially glance at the "forest."

    They’ve thrown away the joy inherent in child-like discovery, and they don’t even realize it. Later on in life, many of us wake up and realize what we’ve lost and have to go to great pains to get that back. But when we do, we find our lives have been enriched once again, and discover a source of continuing joy we’d forgotten that’s always available for us.

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Geez, judgemental much? I find a big difference between the natural beauty of the sunset and man-made fireworks. I find beauty in simplicity, not pyrotechnics. Hope that’s OK with you.

  12. Geezer says:

    Sorry you read it as judgemental; just giving you an alternative perspective. Guess it’s OC making you see it only one way? ;-^)

    Bet when you get older you’ll see it different.

  13. Larry says:

    Here’s the thing. I grew up in a suburb (San Fernando Valley, CA) where things like parades and block parties didn’t happen. Now that I live on Bainbridge Island, the yearly 4th of July parade is for me a way to feel part of the Capraesque, Grant Wood, Rockwell Americana that I’ve heard so much about, but have never experienced besides Disneyland. Sure this idea of the small town in each of us might not resonate nowadays, but for my money, when I see the Rotarians, T&C Supermarket checkers, The Roller  Hockey League and The Swing Dance Regata float cruising by me on our main street – I feel that this is my town. Much like I feel about my country. I could do without the Christian Science Reading room next to the fabric store, just as I could do without another Republican president, but still, good and bad – I’ll take a few hours to celebrate my town and country with a Brat, a cold PBR and some good conversation (this is where the jets fly over my head).

  14. Programmerman says:

    The best part about being burned out on fireworks (*groggily raises hand also*, haven’t slept well in a week due to the explosions) is that they’ll still be there whichever year you do want to see them.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    Geezer, you are so misinformed. "Sorry you don’t see it my way." You obviously know nothing about obsessive compusive personality styles. Also, the "forest for the trees" metaphor refers to people who can’t see the big picture, not the appreciation of beauty. Maybe you could look those things up online. As for the "older" thing: do you mean, like 60? I’m turning 40 this year. How much older do you suppose I have to be to see things exactly the way you do? Want to bet that it never happens?

    Larry – very cute. I can definitely understand your point of view. I live in the valley for a bit. It’s not exactly small town America, that’s for sure!

    Programmerman – that’s true. I doubt I’ll change my mind about them but you never know!

  16. David K says:

    I like how you spoke your mind about the topics of fireworks and parades. I feel much the same way about going to see fireworks.

    (And I would rather be reading a book too!) But I feel like I have to watch it about expressing myself because I don’t want to come across as being too negative.

    I’m looking forward to you possibly posting a "Trying yoga again" – Part 2." Not just the yoga part, but your introspective thoughts on

    life, happiness, and all that.

  17. HeatherLeigh says:

    Thanks David K. Obviously I don’t have a problem being negative. Blogs that are all rainbows and sunshine are boring.  What I aim for is authentic; I just try to watch HOW I say things. Tends to work out. The blog trolls will find you whether you are negative or positive.

  18. patblue says:

    I concur.  I have never liked fireworks much, not sure why – I just can’t get into them.

  19. Ray says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more about parades.  I have NEVER left one thinking "hey, I can’t wait to come back next year!"  Come to think of it, I have never been to one where I wasn’t watching my watch for the last half of it waiting for it to end.  As far as fireworks are concerned, at least in my experience, I think that people tend to watch fireworks at the same venue every year which is why they have a tendency to look the same after a while.

  20. NativeWizdom says:

    Posting late…

    Too much hype — fireworks, parades. Besides Jul 4th is seen as a beginning of our dependence day rather than an independence.


  21. HeatherLeigh says:

    Well, patblue and Ray, I’m sure that Geezer will tell you that when you grow up, you’ll love those things. And you’ll love the forest AND the trees. You know if you don’t love the things he loves, there must be something wrong with you 🙂

    Ooh, why am I feeling snarky today? Right before yoga class too. Uh-oh.

    Glad to hear I am not alone!

  22. JP says:


    I’m glad you didn’t hesitate to post about your weekend plans. I thought your post was pretty funny, too. Probably because I feel the same way…which is OK. Isn’t that what the 4th is about anyway…Freedom? As in having the choice to partake or not? Just like I’m OK with folks loving parades, I would expect folks to respect others who don’t like parades. It really is funny how dissing a parade gets all  twisted up in the notion of "patriotism." Where does that come from? Geez.

    Either way, in the end, I would rather see stars in the sky rather than fireworks and hear great music in an outdoor venue rather a marching band.  

    BTW, if you ever wanted to give up your day job, you could easily become a professional Comments Moderator. You’re goooooooooooood………!!   🙂

  23. HeatherLeigh says:

    JP – I’m definitely with you on that. I just hooked up wireless speakers in the backyard and I’ll enjoy nothing more than sitting out there on a warm night listening to music and looking at the sky (sans fireworks).

    And I do wish comment moderation was a day job 🙂

  24. Ben Alonso says:

    Just needed to comment on this…

    Fireworks are not so different from one place to another. It’s more of a "gathering" opportunity. It’s like Christmas. They’re just presents you could buy on your own. The food you could afford at a restaurant. It’s the gathering and celebration of something greater than us.

    I took my 4 year old daughter to see the fireworks because I wanted her to feel part of a community and develop a sense of pride to being an American. In our daily lives and with possibility/option of not having to interact with anybody since you can do almost anything online or from TV, it is easy to forget that we are all part of something much greater.

    I work with Navy and Marine personnel on a daily basis. We declared our independence on a 4th of July over 200 years ago. Believe me; our troops still fight for it on a daily basis more than 200 years later.

    The fireworks as I see it are just an excuse to get together and become a community again every year and celebrate our independence.

  25. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, I have to say that this is why I do the BBQ thing on the 4th. I find it easier to bond with my peeps over freedom when it’s light out and there are no explosions. I’m not recommending that people don’t celebrate the 4th; just that fireworks and parades are not my chosen medium of celebration. If you like them, more power to you.

    (And I don’t question whether our miltary did do or still does fight for our freedom. There’s no doubt about that)