I was scheduled to blog on the 3rd of the month but missed my day, so decided to post this little reflection on life and the holiday today instead.
I'm blessed to have lived on the same Northwest side of Grand Rapids since 1979. I don't mean that to sound as if the parts of the Grand Rapids metro area aren't just as nice, they are, but it's nice to feel like you've put down roots. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, deep roots mean growth and changes.
My family tree falls in the fortunate category. It has grown and spread with some branches going north, some going east, and others pretty much staying nearby.
I always considered the trees planted on the other side of my backyard fence 35 years ago to be in the fortunate category, too. They were planted as small saplings before I moved into my home to prevent erosion of the sandy hill behind my property. They belong to the large retail store who is my backyard neighbor at the bottom of that same steep slope. As the saplings grew and began shading the yard a bit, they continued to be in the fortunate category, offering a cool spot on the grass for kids to play and for our various house pets to snooze when let outside to romp.
As I said, my house sits on a high hill, and we've always enjoyed the marvelous view of the city lights, hot air balloon lifts (when they used to be held at Richmond Park) and, most especially, the wonderful fireworks displays during Festival, Celebration on the Grand, and -- Yes!!-- the Fourth of July!
We had so many wonderful gatherings on the deck (and in the yard) over the years to celebrate the Fourth. From out there, you could see not only the Grand Rapids fireworks but also ones from Wyoming, Reed's Lake, and other neighborhoods. It was awesome!
As the children grew up and married, their 4th of July activities changed, too. They took their families downtown to experience the fireworks or went on camping trips over the holidays or celebrated out of state when their careers took them from Michigan. A few years ago, my youngest son commented on the trees at Richmond Park in the distance having grown so tall they blocked a few of the lower fireworks in that direction. We all nodded, but there were still plenty of others to see, so we didn't think too much of it.
For several years, it was just my mom and I sitting on the deck with a glass of ice tea enjoying the fireworks. She absolutely loved fireworks. The whole family has fond memories of the delight "GeeGee" took in buying bottle rockets and fountains for my teenagers to set off before the city's displays started. I think she enjoyed them even more than the kids did. We'd sit and reminisce about those days and share some laughs. Then Mom was gone (her branch of the tree having reached the Heavens), and the fireworks celebration at my house became even quieter.
On the Fourth of July last year, I realized, the trees just over the fence had filled out much more. I had to sit in one corner of the deck if I wanted to see the Grand Rapids display, and the trees pretty much blocked my view of most of the other displays around the area. But that was okay. I cranked up Lee Greenwood singing "God Bless the USA" and ooohed and aahed over the ones I could still see.
Yesterday, I once again took my iced tea out to the deck at dusk to watch the fireworks. I was dismayed to find those trees are just enough higher and broader that all I could see were occasional glimpses of sparkles through the leaves. Needless to say, I didn't stay out there very long.
That's the unfortunate part of deep roots. It makes for growth and changes that sometimes aren't what we expected. Last night's discovery was a bit sad and nostalgic, but the fortunate part is the great memories it stirred. Next year, PBS promises me a front row seat in my living room for the fireworks.
God bless America!
~ Stephanie Michels
author of Trouble in Paradys (at Amazon and Resplendence Publishing)
co-author of The Calico Heart with Patricia Kiyono (at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Astraea Press)