I held those memories close last night as we stood out on Anna Maria Island, watching an amazing show of fireworks up and down the coast. Forget economic hard times -- this was a night to celebrate (as was the prelude, caught here by photographer Tiffany Tompkins-Condie). With the Gulf waves reflecting every skyrocket's starburst, it was at least as beautiful as I remember from our home in Florissant, Mo., where the Johnson farm bordering our backyard took a beating from Dad's pinwheels -- at least those that worked. Then again, I wonder if Dad made sure that, every year, at least one dud refused to ignite on that wooden telephone post. He must have known how crushed we'd have been if everything had been in order. No, that was tradition -- and that's what the Fourth of July embraces.
That, and the freedom this country embraces. Our friend Peter celebrated his first Fourth of July as an American citizen last night. He was proudly decked out in his Uncle Sam top hat, and he had sparklers for everyone. And while he blasted the bloody economy (he can't shed that Brit blood, despite his oaths), he led the toast to whatever tomorrow brings. And as the fireworks framed hopeful faces, it seemed like a good omen.