Staff Stories: “What Independence Day Means to Me”

By Common Desk - July 3rd, 2020

Independence Day is here again, but for most of us (especially for Texas), it’s going to look a little different this year whether by choice or by force. COVID-19 is (hopefully) keeping everyone distanced when they might normally be at a cookout or with family. And, pandemic aside, many are further realizing with the fact that Independence Day didn’t/doesn’t fully signify true freedom for all Americans (read up on our Juneteenth post for more on this). So for all these reasons and more, our staff have been thinking a lot about what Independence Day means to each of us personally.

Stories are special and are always worth sharing; we’ve loved hearing some of the different memories that have been shared through our staff Slack channel. Take a little walk down memory lane through a few of the special stories our staffer’s share around the 4th of July and what it means to them:

“I remember back when my grandmother was around any and every holiday was spent with the ENTIRE family all 12 of my grandmothers children and their children all gathered and celebrated each and every holiday together, needless to say my grandmother was the glue of the entire family back in the day! However now that my grandmother has since then passed, now we each kinda just do our own thing, with the typical Carne Asada (the traditional Mexican way!), Patio Talks and occasionally go see fireworks or hit the Lake! And knowing my mom calling all of her siblings to come over and play loteria (bingo) and have a grand ‘ole time with laughter, coffee, and late talks with the fam! However, honestly, we don’t really need a holiday to do that we just use it as an excuse!”

– The Mendez family: Daniel Gutierrez-Mendez + Christian and Julio Mendez

“Growing up, there was a big Fourth of July parade in my neighborhood. We used to decorate bikes and scooters and strollers and dogs (!) to celebrate America’s independence. There was something so easy about those days. I remember having full creative control over our get up (Old Navy head to toe!), and my poor sister landed herself in several strange, festive outfits because I said so. The holiday, to me, felt like such a win.

As I’ve grown older and come to reckon with America’s troubling past, I don’t feel as easy celebrating as I once did. That said, I’m more resolved than I’ve ever been to make the promise of America, freedom and opportunity, a reality for all.”

– Mary Catherine Hughes

“I don’t quite remember the year, but I was pretty young probably 9-10 years old, and my parents took me on a weekend trip to Corpus Christi. We did all the usual things like hang out at the beach, swim in the ocean, walk down the Bob Hall Pier and the boardwalk. However, my favorite part was going to Whataburger right off the beach for dinner on the 4th. It was 2-stories with a deck viewing the ocean and we just sat out there eating cheeseburgers and watched the fireworks go off. And it kind of became our little family tradition after that (honestly we did miss one or two trips) and it’s something I want to continue doing with my girls!

– Don Bernier

“Hot sun-rays warm my skin as my cousins and I run back and forth from the pool to the trampoline and back again, blood running hot as we competed to see who could swim from one side of the pool to the other or who could jump the highest as we catapulted each other into the sky. Barbecue chicken legs, hamburgers, hotdogs and ribs sizzle on the grill as uncles are dressed in the uniform of someone who knows what they’re doing–pair of tongs in hand, sandals of dubious brand and the visor + apron combo to complete the look. Fireworks and ice-cream round out the day, tired at long last falling deep into a lawn chair fighting to stay awake and prove I was every bit as grown as anyone else there. My memories of 4th of July celebrations warm my heart and comfort my spirit looking back on them.

While the focus growing up was never centered on America’s Independence, the day still brings back fond memories of reuniting with family members and friends I hadn’t seen in months. Good food, drinks, activities and fun with the underlying spirit of being thankful for another year with the people i loved was emphasized and all I cared about. Realizing how quickly circumstances can change and those same people can at any moment be gone reminds me that what I’ve taken for granted over the years is indeed a luxury, and makes me cherish those memories even more. While it may not be the same extravaganza as usual; for those I do get to see and reconnect with I guarantee the hugs will be longer and closer than in the past.

While the 4th of July is historically the finalization of the Declaration, through the decades and lenses of Americans everywhere it encompasses many different things. To me the 4th is not only a reminder of what we are striving towards everyday –Life, Liberty & Happiness–but proof that words don’t equate reality, and dreams can only be realized through action. Progress for the actualization of these lofty goals is still an ongoing battle that we as Americans should never shy away from, but instead life, liberty & happiness should be the collective and unifying dream for everyone. So as we spend time with loved ones with gratitude for life and all its many gifts, let’s remember not everyone enjoys the same blessings, and together focus on how we can make this country even better for 2021.”

–Devin Christopher

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