Yesterday Britton and I both had the day off for the fourth of July. We really didn’t have any plans so we invited my mom and her partner over to BBQ with us. We decided to have a little fun and participate in some of the traditional American aspects of the 4th of July: beer, BBQ and blowing crap up (fireworks) .
Sometimes I forget that not everywhere (not even everywhere in the US) does things the same as in Greeley, Colorado. Some places don’t have drive-thru liquor stores, car lots aren’t closed on Sunday for religious holdover reasons and water rights aren’t more important than just about anything else. In some places you don’t see people drive humongous diesel trucks, work on a farms or oil rigs, wear cowboy hats and spit brown tobacco. Or you don’t still see manual laborers pulling onions from the ground or corn fields that come autumn turn into beautiful huge mazes (or maizes as they wittily call them).
In other places, you might not see people jogging around town running in place (the men usually shirtless) while they wait at stoplights in order to continue their exercise momentum. You might not see the huge exodus of cars as they drive up into the mountains on holiday weekends for a hike and picnic. In some places, “Red Rocks” means next to nothing while here it is always the answer to “Where is the best concert venue?” In some places the carnival and rodeo and huge parade don’t come around every 4th of July and the big Black Cat firecracker tents don’t pop up like weeds all along the front range.
But right here, in this place and time, these are all things we just take as part and parcel of this American life in the no-longer-too-Wild West of the high plains/front range of Colorado.
We often don’t think about culture as being the culture in which we grew up, but it is there hidden in plain sight, right in front of our eyes. We don’t see it until we have the contrast of other cultures, norms, and rules.
We sometimes think of culture as something other people have, or of subcultures of the mainstream. What this implies is that it feels normal. Because there is no contrast or challenge to the main culture, one is not able to see oneself. Normal often means invisible to ourselves. This is one of the reasons I love travel and cultural immersions. Through meeting people and visiting their lands, you actually start to see yourself and your roots more clearly.
I realize that it will be a little bittersweet to leave this comfortable life and culture we have always known. It is so very easy to fit right in with the place you were born and not give it a second thought, especially if you can identify with the majority. But ease and comfort doesn’t usually help you grow as a person. And so it is partly for that reason that we are moving on to new, wider experiences in life.
But for this day, this emblematic day of America, we appreciated our hometown 4th of July, Independence Day, in the ol’ U.S. of A by doing a few things we love to do on a hot summer, mid-west American day.
We took a walk in our favorite park, Glenmere.
We picked up some beer, and put some brats on the grill. We listened to music and as the sun set, the whole neighborhood came alive and glowing with people setting off all the firecrackers they had bought from the ubiquitous tents. As the night became even darker and cooler, we sat on our front porch and lit our small $5 supply of sparklers and jumping jacks and watched the big and beautiful fireworks show put on by the Stampede as we have done almost every year we’ve lived here. We enjoyed the finale to a wonderfully American day.