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Dogs quiver and whine as they hide in basements and under furniture. Children twirl with delight holding skinny metal sticks with colored sparks flying from the tips. Adults lounge in lawn chairs visiting with other adults who are keeping a close watch on where the flaming hot metal sticks end up.

All over the United States this was happening last week as Americans celebrated Independence Day.

The Fourth of July became a national holiday in 1870. But on July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America ... I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival ... with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Although we celebrate on the fourth instead of the second, the rest of his prediction came true.

When I was a young girl in the ‘60s there were fireworks at Browning Field in Moline. if you went to the show in costume you would get in free, but my family always watched from our backyard.

Neighbors would bring extra lawn chairs and children around dusk and set the chairs arena-style facing east. If it was a sweltering evening, the kids would be drying off from frolicking in the sprinkler.

Sticky red juice would drip from our elbows as we ate from thick slices of crisp watermelon and competed to see who could spit the seeds the furthest. There was never a winner because it always devolved into us spitting them at each other instead.

Pops and sizzles could be heard in the distance, signalling to us that the “grounders” had begun and the fireworks would soon light up the sky.

We would cuddle together, two or three children to a lounge chair, munching on fluffy white puffs of buttered popcorn and swilling icy lemonade from multi-colored aluminum tumblers.

Ooohs and ahhhs burst from our lips when the red, white, and blue splayed across the sky. We liked to try to guess which type of firework would be next by watching the trail as it ascended to the explosion height.

Similar celebrations continue to take place yearly across the continent commemorating independence.

One slice of pure Americana celebrating the nation’s independence is the 12 Street parade in Moline.

This parade was started years ago by a teacher who lived in the neighborhood. He was a patriot who loved sharing the importance of freedom with children and he encouraged them to decorate bicycles and wagons, to festoon themselves and their dogs and march through the neighborhood.

It has grown to include hundreds of children, a firetruck, and Vietnam Veterans as the color guard. The yards are filled with spectators, flags are flying, and happiness is abundant.

I am intrigued that the writer’s of our Declaration of Independence considered happiness to be of equal importance to life and liberty.

During a time when our forefathers were fighting for their lives with muskets, trying to ensure freedom, they considered it imperative to include the pursuit of happiness as a self-evident right.

To value happiness to such an extent as to declare the quest for it a right tells me the writer’s were dreamers.

They were dreaming of a land where all its people would forevermore have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

One slice of pure Americana celebrating the nation’s independence is the 12 Street parade in Moline.

Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.


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