As an American living in Spain, I often feel the little twinges of homesickness. Over the last few years they have decreased significantly, but there are certain events or days that bring them flooding back almost as if I had just left yesterday.
Generally, Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, and the multiple vacations that my family has taken without me are the ones that hit home the hardest. So, I was surprised when today 4th of July gave me a feeling of homesickness. It was never my favorite holiday in and of itself. I like fireworks, but it’s not like I would stay up the night before waiting to see them.
I guess what I miss more than anything about the 4th is just the overall atmosphere that it creates. I’m not the biggest “patriot.” I love the US, don’t get me wrong, but I have what many call the “wanderlust soul” and I long for new places and different cultures.
What I mean by the atmosphere isn’t necessarily the red, white, and blue everywhere or the playing of the national anthem (although, I have to admit, when it does play, right before the fireworks go off, I always get filled with this innate sense of pride and thankfulness for my country. I can’t help but think of all the men and women who have fought or are fighting for our freedom. It doesn’t matter what myself or anyone else thinks about the war. When it comes down to it there are still people–men, women, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters–out there fighting, unable to spend the holiday with their own families. And no matter what, they are individuals who deserve respect).
What I love about the 4th of July is the smell of barbecue in the air. The laughter of families coming together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. I love the feeling of jumping through the sprinklers in the hot July sun, and watching my nieces and nephews run around with sparklers. I love sitting around a table with my family, passing the ketchup and mustard back and forth and listening to everyone talking at once, at least three different conversations going on at the same time.
And, to be honest, even though I’m not the biggest “patriot” as I mentioned before, I love the feeling of unity that seems to hang in the air. In a day and age when we are all so divided on so many things, it’s good to see people coming together to celebrate that we are all one country, one people.
I know, there are a lot of issues still present, and the intense patriotism that spreads can sometimes be a bad thing–the exclusiveness it creates, and the self-important mentality that comes from nothing more than having the luck of being born in a specific place at a specific time in history.
But in those moments, when I’m sitting in the front yard celebrating the birth of our nation with my family, those aren’t on my mind. America has its flaws, but it has a lot of great things about it too. Being outside of the US for almost four years now, I’m very aware of both. However, it’s because I was born there (by happy accident) that I’m able to travel around the world, get an education, and look forward to a bright future.
Again, I know this isn’t the case for everyone born in the US and I’m extremely thankful and humbled that it is the case for me.
I’m getting off track here. This isn’t supposed to be a politically charged post… let me refocus.
The point is when I’m sitting here, with my husband and my puppy in our small apartment in Spain, with no plans for the day except to maybe go have a tapa at some point, I miss those moments. I miss my country. It doesn’t happen often that I wish I could be back in the US, but today, I do.
I think it’s okay to be homesick, and it’s okay to miss not only your family but also your country. It’s okay to be thankful for where you are from, and want to celebrate that. So, all of that being said, Happy Birthday, America! I hope all of you are having a great time celebrating with cookouts and firecrackers. I hope you’re all laughing and enjoying the moment with your family and friends. I’ll be here, drinking my tea and working just like I would be on any other Monday. So, make sure you have a little extra fun for all of us Ex-Pats out here!