Santa Paula Times

Summer Time, July 4th, and Mom

June 29, 2011

By Duane Ashby

I love holidays.  But for me nothing is like the 4th of July, it always seemed to have a special meaning.  There always was something different about it.  Recently, I was giving some thought about growing up, enjoying my summers, and the July 4ths of my youth, when I realized why I feel the way I do: my mom.  Mom always treated the 4th somewhat special.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I came to understand why.

Mom is Danish.  When she was a little child growing up, Denmark was forcibly occupied by a hostile and violent foreign military force.  Later in life she has described, (with difficulty I might add), some of the privations and experiences of that period in her life, (and world history).  When the allies began their invasion in 1944, she and her family, (along with millions of Europeans), anxiously waited for the day of their liberation.  They would get snippets of news from various sources.  They heard about events, such as the Allied invasion at Normandy, with it tremendous cost of human lives.  They eagerly anticipated news of the Allies as they fought their way across Europe until finally one day, LIBERTY, came once again to her country, her town, her family, to her.

Eventually my mom was able to immigrate to the United States.  She brought with her an understanding of what Independence Day really means.  She understood Liberty, Freedom, and Independence, in a way that the people around her probably never would.  As a family, we celebrated the 4th like everyone else, but yet there was something different about it.  She instilled in her children an appreciation for the freedoms afforded us, and taught us to see them as something that should not be taken for granted.

Every 4th of July, as I watch the fireworks displays, I can’t help but think of what it was like for both my mom, and those who fought and sacrificed to restore her freedom.  I think about D-Day on the beaches of Normandy, and the ripple of hope that spread through an oppressed land, as the news spread: the Allies had begun their invasion.  I think about the battles fought, the sacrifices made, the lives changed forever.

This Monday, July 4th, you will find me here in Santa Paula, eating something barbequed, potato salad, watermelon, and other delicious foods and desserts.  Later in the evening I will find my way to Harding Park, spread out a blanket and sit there, chatting with friends and family, waiting for dusk.  Then, as the first “thwump” is heard, and the fiery trail of a mortar is seen climbing into the sky, signaling the beginning of Santa Paula’s annual fireworks display, I will lay there, saying “OOH” and “AHH” like everyone else.  But I will also be thinking about what liberty and independence mean, and the service men and women, both past and present, who make it possible.  “ nation under God, with Liberty and justice for all.”