Birthdays are a big deal in our family.  We celebrate.  Each person has different things they enjoy on their special day, but certain traditions are part of every one.  Like cake.  There is always a birthday cake.  I love strawberry shortcake on my day.  My brother prefers Mom’s German Chocolate from scratch.  Hubby’s pick is his mother’s chocolate cake recipe.  You get the idea.  There is always a cake, but everyone’s cake is his or her own favorite, and always prepared for them by someone else.

Last week was my daughter’s birthday.  Her idea of the perfect birthday this year was dressing up and going somewhere nice and out-of-the-ordinary for dinner with family and friends.   Someone brought the homemade cake to the restaurant, so that tradition blended right in.  Everyone gifted cards and presents, and we had a grand time.  But there is one special tradition wrapped up in our family’s birthdays.  We started it with our kids when they were very young.  It is their birthday story.

Beginning early her birthday morning, my daughter received texts throughout the day, especially from me but other family members as well, remembering the events of the day she was born.  It’s fun, because the memories we share vary, and over the years she has pieced together how that day unfolded.  She knows without doubt just how big her arrival was in each of our lives and that of our family.  Her story is her anchor, the reminder that no matter where she is or how far away, she belongs and is a vital thread in the family tapestry.

We have another birthday coming up this week.  By we, I mean you and me and the rest of America on the 4th of July, Independence Day, the day we celebrate the birth of the United Stated of America.  The labor involved in birthing a nation was, not surprisingly, quite a long process.  As a result, there are several dates that could’ve been the nation’s birthday.  Like July 2nd when in 1776, the Continental Congress decided to declare independence from Great Britain.  Or maybe August 2nd when the signers actually affixed their autographs to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  September 17th when the Constitution was actually ratified in 1787 might have worked.  What actually occurred on July 4, 1776 is unanimous approval, after two days of wordsmithing on the final verbiage, of the July 2nd draft of the Declaration of Independence.

According to constitutionfacts.com, July 4, 1776 is the date on the “fancy handwritten” copy of the actual Declaration of Independence signed on August 2nd that year, the copy of which is now displayed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  And it was July 4th that the new nation’s citizens saw on the printed copies distributed throughout the colonies declaring the news.  So the 4th stuck by virtue of mass recognition.  It was nearly 100 years later, in 1870, before Congress actually declared July 4th to be a national holiday.

This is our story of the day we were born.  On Saturday, we will celebrate across the land.  And like birthday cakes, every spot on the map will do it a little differently.  In Denton, we’ll kick it off early at the Liberty Run at North Lakes Park followed by the Yankee Doodle Parade downtown around the square.  Right after the parade, the 4th of July Jubilee festival opens in Quakertown Park and the Denton Main Street Association hosts a special Twilight Tunes finale (in the morning, yes) featuring J.R. Byrd & the Tracks on the west side of the courthouse lawn.

We finish our Denton version of America’s birthday celebration in the spectacular tradition that is part of the 4th in every corner of the country, with fireworks.  The Denton Kiwanis Fireworks Show opens at Apogee Stadium with music, food and fun for the family, lighting up the sky at dark with a brilliant salute to America, the greatest nation and most fascinating democratic experiment in the history of our planet.

It is important that we know our story and hear it again and again.  And it is just as important that we celebrate our arrival on the world scene in 1776.  Like my daughter’s arrival enlarged and changed the shape of our family even as she began her own story, so our nation immediately affected the world.  Our story is one among many coloring the tapestry of this world.  But it is uniquely our story, our anchor.

Happy birthday, America!