Friday, July 04, 2008

Baseball, Mom, and Apple Pie

There is nothing more American than the 4th of July. American Independence Day has woven its thread into the fabric of our being and has grabbed a prestigious position within the cultural idiom which is used to describe something as being uniquely American,
"That is as American as Baseball, Mom, Apple Pie, and the 4th of July."
It is odd for me to think that for something that has so much positive connotations and recollections for me as the 4th of July, that I would have let this important date slide by with relatively little fan fair for the past four years here in Singapore. In fact, if you were to reflect back to my first 4th of July in Singapore, you will find that I was feverish to pull in memories of the people, food, and fun that always surrounded this important time.

This year, the 4th was back to its rightful place as being an event and a destination. Thanks to my friend Linda, our resident social planner and conduit that pulls us all together in the name of fun, a group of us got together and took part in the Independence Day activities held in Sembawang, Singapore, which is sponsored by the local chapter of the American Association. I was literally giddy with excitement leading up to the event. So much in fact, that I refused to eat the entire day so that I would have plenty of room for traditional 4th of July Food which I had been craving. Upon arrival at the park where the event was hosted, we were greeted with a friendly, "Hello Folks, hope you enjoy the festivities", by an American Association volunteer. The whole thing felt like a Wall-Mart moment but it was endearing and heartfelt and put me in a comfortable mood that I was among friends.

After getting through the main gates, Tilden and I met some very famous Americans, in an even stiffer condition than usual. The two political parties' overseas chapters were helping Americans register to vote absentee in the upcoming election. The continuous din of the election coverage reaches us here in Singapore and most people are shocked to learn that we don't actually vote until November.

Politics aside, this was an event that brought together close to 5,000 people. My taste buds were rewarded by food tents that had been set up for local restaurants that were serving up hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue briskit, pizza, kababs, ice cream, beer, and margaritas. You may be shocked, and slightly sick to your stomach, to know that I had at least one of each of those items just mentioned while I was celebrating. There was even a live band cranking out classic Rock & Roll tunes while people who had laid out towels and blankets across the grass swayed and danced to the beat. It was fun to watch little kids, who most likely were not born in the US, get to experience a real 4th of July. And that was the whole point. The 4th of July belongs to everyone no matter what piece of soil you find yourself treading upon.

The evening wrapped up with an amazing firework display. The shells were exploding so close the ground that you really felt the concussion of each blast, while your eyes took in the palate of shimmering colors. There were "oohs and ahhs" from the crowd voicing their approval along the way, and when the grand finale occurred sending up multiple shells skyward with a machine gun-like staccato, I found myself cheering out loud.

Soon the display was over while the smell of gun powder still lingered in the air. The celebration had drawn to a close yet the smile on my face remained. Living overseas, you often try your best to soak in the culture of others, yet that should never stand in your way of celebrating and being proud of your own. This had been the 4th of July for which I was searching: surrounded by the comfort food of home, great friends, fantastic music, and 5,000 strangers, who no matter what their nationality or origin, on this specific night were all sons and daughters of the Red, White, and Blue.