I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship to the Fourth of July. Like everyone whose birthday is also a major holiday, I’ve felt resentful at the fact that the anniversary of my birth falls on a day when everyone’s attention is occupied with another hugely important celebration.
Not only was I born on an important national holiday, but I was born on arguably the single most significant American holiday there is. The only other American holiday that approaches that level of national significance is Thanksgiving Day — and at least on Thanksgiving Day I am or have usually been with friends or family.
On July 4, everyone is out of town. Even people (like me) who do not go in for all the “patriotic” hoopla are likely to go off for a long weekend, or visit family, or whatever, but whatever they do, they’re not around. School is out, businesses are closed, and most Americans have the day off, unless their work is 24/7, like law enforcement or hospitals. It’s easy to forget or overlook a July 4th birthday.
Then again, I like the reaction I invariably get when people find out my birthday is July 4. They exclaim; they say things like “Hey! You’re a firecracker baby!” or “So all those fireworks are for you, eh?” or “That’s fun; the whole country celebrates your birthday.” I laugh, I feel tickled and pleased; I feel special and unique — one of a kind. I also share my birthday with some very famous Americans: Dear Abby and Ann Landers, Louis B. Mayer, Neil Simon, George Steinbrenner, Rube Goldberg, Calvin Coolidge, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Stephen Foster, Eva Marie Saint. George M. Cohan was not born on the 4th of July, despite his family’s best efforts to move his birthday up by a day. And no, neither was Tom Cruise — to my everlasting relief.
I also get a kind of perverse satisfaction from my birth date. I often tell people — when I think they are likely to appreciate the irony — that being born on July 4th was God’s little joke on me, because I am the least conventionally patriotic person I know. I can’t stand flag-waving American chauvinists — and I was born on the biggest flag-waving day of the year. No one can say the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor.
On this Fourth of July, I am 57 years old. Sixty is breathing down my neck, and I have to say, it’s a number I cannot even begin to imagine associating with me.
But that’s three years away, right? For today, I’m 57 — and hoping that the next 12 months do not go by at quite the speed the last 12 months have.
Cross-posted at Liberty Street.