Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

For the past thirteen years, we've been celebrating the fourth with friends at David and Sandy Starnes' house. My friend T. invited us along just after the kids and I joined Dick here in North Carolina, and the whole day has become a ritual. The guys start on the golf course, then we start appearing at their house midday for a little time out on the boat (during which we have never not been stopped by the water patrol) and a little time in the pool. As the golfers wind up their games, people start appearing, bearing appetizers and sides to go along with the traditional barbecue. We always have music, and sometimes a little dancing breaks out. The fireworks get bigger and better every year. A couple of years ago, in fact, we heard that people at the Crawdads game quit watching their fireworks to watch ours.

A couple of July Fourths have also been significant for me. In 1976, I went to visit Robin and Chester Sharps, whom I had helped earlier in their move to Philadelphia, where Chester attended medical school at Hahnemann U. I cannot imagine a better place to celebrate that Bicentennial. Neither could the Queen of Englande, apparently (although I imagine the date was a touchy one for the Brits!) One night we watched fireworks, if I remember correctly, below the steps where Rocky had climbed triumphantly during his practice runs. "Stars and Stripes Forever" and other patriotic fare was played. On the evening of the fourth, we stood atop their apartment building to watch a citywide fireworks display reported to have used more gunpowder than the whole revolutionary war. Then we stood with huge crowds watching a clock tick town to the exact time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Chester convinced me that a picture of the clock with only 1 second remaining would be better than zero because it would stay at zero once it got there.

On another special Fourth, I left the Starnes party early to meet Debbie, Allan, and Darby Rappuhn at the Charlotte airport for our trip to China. We flew into Hong Kong the week it changed hands from Great Britain to China. There was a huge military presence at the airports. Our first full day in China, their new Chinese daughter was placed in their arms. The rest of the week there in Wuhan, we toured the city, guided by Cindy our interpreter, while awaiting Allie's passport. Next we traveled to Guangzhou (Canton), the location of the American Embassy, and stayed at the White Swan (just a bit nicer than our hotel in Wuhan!) We had official medical examinations of the babies there, along with what seemed like hundreds of other Chinese daughters and their American or Canadian families. Finally we went to the Embassy for the last of the paperwork--visas, I think--and we were ready to depart. Although we hadn't known quite what to expect, we had a great experience--except for Allie's ear infection at the last day. We saw quite a bit of the cities where we stayed, and the people were genuinely warm and friendly. I still remember, though, after the long seventeen-hour flight (with four babies from our group not quite used to flying--or even being held close), how wonderful the words sounded in the LA airport: "Welcome to America!"
Happy Fourth, Allie! You're still my girl!


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