Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
Yesterday was a good day. The Archbold’s did the 4th of July up right. All five children wore red, white and blue to Church. We sang “God Bless America” at the top of our lungs. We played outside while listening to country music on the radio and I barbecued hot dogs and burgers on the grill and didn’t even burn them (a lot.)
We ate inside because there were so many bugs flying around that with a concerted effort they could’ve carried away the two year old girl by her pigtails. As the sun set at the end of the day my wife and I debated taking the children back outside to watch the fireworks. That means I wanted us all to go out to the local high school to watch the fireworks and my wife thought the children were too tired from a long weekend. The problem is that most of the kids go to bed by 8 and it doesn’t get really dark until 9 p.m. We compromised by agreeing that we’d all go in the backyard and watch the fireworks from there.
My wife handed out drinks for everyone and we sat on lawn chairs while the children positioned themselves all over the swingset in the backyard. It was quite beautiful with the sun was setting and we waited for the fireworks.
I explained to my children why the 4th was important. It was quite a grand speech. Moving even. It had text and subtext and recurrent themes about liberty and all of history being moved by the thirst for power and one small group of men thwarting the historical tide of oppression and founding a new nation built on ideals. I explained how when we celebrate the 4th we honor America’s declaration of independence from the Crown.
So what did the crown do, asked my five year old.
“Well they sent over troops to kill Americans and that was the Revolutionary War,” said the ten year old.
I had the idea of making it into a grand adventure story then with the colonists fighting the crown and maybe even reciting a little of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. Ahem…let me see if I can remember my Longfellow…
“So,” asked my incredulous eight year old, “we’re celebrating the beginning of a war where a lot of people got killed?” This seemed to disturb my eight year old. I should’ve felt the night slipping away from me but I persevered.
“Yes,” I told her “but no.” (I wasn’t off to a good start.) “You see, we’re celebrating the act of independence which did instigate a considerable amount of bloodshed but…”
Then the ten year old chimed in as if she had the solution that would clear everything up. “Look, Jesus was born on Christmas day and King Herod went out and killed all the babies in the town but we still celebrate Christmas don’t we?”
As you might imagine that didn’t help.
My five year old son who was now heading face first down the slide stopped himself with his arms, looked up and asked, “Who’s killing babies on the 4th of July?”
I said nobody. My ten year old said Herod did after Christmas but we still celebrate Christmas.
“How many people died in the Evolutionary war?” interrupted my eight year old.
“I don’t know,” I said. “But the important thing about the Revolutionary War…”
“Are all holidays about war and people getting killed?” asked my seven year old.
“What? No. Look, I said, there are plenty of holidays that don’t lead to bloodshed and war. Thanksgiving celebrates the friendship between the white Europeans who came over to America and made friends with the Native Americans which was followed by…well never mind what that was followed by. Well, there’s Memorial Day which honors…well…”
I stopped for a moment to collect my thoughts.
My eight year then old offered up that Easter was happy because Jesus rose from the dead and that was happy. And then she added, “But first they killed Him and that was sad.”
“Yeah, that was kinda bad,” I said. “But like you said it had a happy ending.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “And so does the 4th of July because we’re free now, right?”
Yes! OK. We’re back on track.
Suddenly the five year old faceplanted into the dirt at the bottom of the slide crashing into the two year old who spilled her cup of apple juice on the eight year old who was upset because this was her most favoritest shirt ever. In the end I don’t know exactly who was crying and who wasn’t but I think the list of who wasn’t crying would probably be shorter.
We all went inside and my wife and I cleaned up the victims and carried the smaller ones to bed and the bigger ones followed. As I climbed the steps I could hear the boom of fireworks exploding outside. We prayed together for America and the troops and for my daughter’s second grade teacher (I’m not really sure why.) As I turned out the lights my five year old thanked me for the best 4th of July ever.
All in all it was a good day followed by a bruised lip, a stained shirt, a lot of tears and a confused father. But it was still a good day. With a happy ending.