Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, America

Technically it’s the fifth of July, but I’m going to count it. This is my favorite holiday of the year. I absolutely love my country. The sheer excitement of the day got me out of bed at 6 to meet my family at the Provo Balloon Festival. Sidenote, the Provo Balloon Festival is apparently one of the largest in the nation, although Albuquerque’s is still larger. Sadly the winds were too strong, which resulted in the five-story Coke bottle balloon—located between Smokey the Bear and the portly pig—tilting wildly and collapsing on a suddenly frenzied group of parents. People started grabbing for their children like football players for a fumble while the balloon leered overhead, falling fast.

The family is mostly in town. My Korean cousins brought some of their friends over from Korea. The conversation was all fun until the woman started speed-talking excitedly after I mentioned that I'm at BYU. Although I’m not sure what was said (my aunt would only say with apparent embarrassment, “Oh, don’t worry about that ”), the situation was strikingly similar to an awkward night at the market as a new missionary in Thailand when, apparently, I had accidentally arranged some sort of courtship with the shop-owner’s daughter. I mistakenly thought he was asking if the apples looked good and if I really wanted them.

After an unhealthy number of Holleyburgers, a good game of football (during which we found out Seth throws with a perfect spiral), some ice cold soda under the walnut trees at the farm and a little American television, it was time to watch as Provo assaulted the sky with fireworks. Last year my roommate Chris and I were on the pyrotechnic crew for Stadium of Fire so we knew just where to go for optimal viewing. Unfortunately, there isn’t much grass there and, due to long lines at Dairy Queen and the appeal of Blizzards, we didn’t have a lot of time to find some. So we sat on the police barricades running down the center of Canyon Road and University Avenue.

We ooh’d and aah’d as the fireworks filled our entire range of view. We were so close that when one exploded a little close to the ground, the purple sparks and ash lit up the pavement around us. It was like the closing scene of Oceans 11, when everyone is looking at the fountains of the Bellagio—we were in total mesmerized awe, caught up in the magic of America. It was a Sandlot moment where time lost all importance. At the end of the concussions and sparks, the crowd cheered and began chanting “USA, USA, USA!!” while Sam Yam rode his stereo speaker-mounted bike down the street blasting MGMT - “Kids” while the crowd followed him like he was the Pied Piper. It’s moments like that where you feel the almost tangible excitement and realize just how lucky we are to be in America. It’s not a perfect place, but it’s trying pretty hard in a lot of ways. As we all tromped down the street by the thousands while buzzing about how great the show was, how perfect the weather felt, how awesome America is, how awesome tomorrow is going to be, and intermittently chanting “USA” or exchanging smiles with strangers, we lived the blessing that is America. We live it every day. Happy birthday, America. God bless you.