In years past, the Fourth of July didn't really pique my interest. A few years ago, I never saw a single firework, but I could hear them from the bowels of my then-workplace.
Last year, I spent a mostly unremarkable holiday drinking red and blue-tinged concoctions — that was the extent of my patriotism.
I'm not sure why I don't have a particular fondness for holidays. I think in many cases the preparation stress and hoopla outweigh the fun and jollity one is supposed to enjoy.
New Year's Eve is a waste, I haven't seen my family on Easter Sunday in years, I hide on Halloween to avoid doling out sweets to overly-sugared children (although I do love a good costume), I don't understand what Labor Day means, etc. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Memorial Day are the three holidays I put any effort into.
But this Independence Day may have me taking a different approach to future holidays. It was one of the single best days I've had in a long while.
The day, spent wholly with family, started out typically enough with a 40 minute drive to my cousin's new house near Festus, Mo.
Once we got there, I got a tour of the new abode and tromped through the expansive backyard, complete with a pool, gazebo, koi fish pond and a private lake stocked with catfish.
We dined on barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs and brats, potato salad, too many chips to count, watermelon and star-shaped Jello treats. I hadn't eaten that extensively in quite a while, but that's what holidays are for, right?
Later in the afternoon, I became the king of the pool volleyball court.
I also became the cruise director of the "Eric Cruiseline," taking the children for paddleboat rides around the lake as they decided to take breaks from catching tadpoles and frogs along the lake shore. I also learned Thursday of my propensity towards a popular backyard game — the one and only cornhole.
I consumed no fewer than five bomb pops — frozen, patriotic-colored treats in the shape of a bottle rocket.
Of course, the highlight of most Independence Day celebrations is the fireworks show. This year, we didn't watch a show on television or attend a organized show, but rather we held our own.
Colorful fountains danced at the end of the driveway, bottle rockets and firecrackers punctuated the night with crackles, pops and booms and sparklers illuminated the faces of family.
One of the undeniable favorites, "The Demon", lit up a red face on one end of the fireworks box, much to the delight of the onlookers.
The finale, "The Atomic Bomb", showered the sky with gold and white fireworks, culminating in a golden explosion of fire that looked like pinwheels.
Page 2 of 2 - Even the neighbors, who had their own show throughout the evening, cheered at the conclusion of the show — even though my family most definitely had the superior showing.
An hour and a half after the show began, we swept up the littered driveway, disposed of the empty bomb pops rubbish — mostly because of my popsicle binge — and packed up the lawn chairs. Driving home through a haze of smoke was an eery sensation I hadn't experienced before.
All in all, it was an excellent, relaxing day. With a little preparation and relaxation, I had the best holiday in a long while.
I can't remember having a more American holiday.