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Mantel decor compliments of Georgia and Pinterest.

Mantel decor compliments of Georgia and Pinterest.

We had a perfectly all-American Fourth of July today! It was hot — Visalia is always hot in July — but the thermometer topped out at 104 degrees, which is verging on the mild side for us.

Instead of staying home to party, we celebrated across town where a young friend had just bought his first house. (Interestingly enough, it is across the street and down two houses from where we lived when Georgia was born.) It was so satisfying to watch this young man welcome his grandparents, aunt, mom and sister, and an assortment of friends and family-by-choice into his space. We ate, visited, and swam, waiting for the magical moment for the fireworks to begin. When the neighbors all around us began shooting off fireworks that were anything but legal, both dogs headed into the house in panic, and my granddaughters were working on being afraid, too.

I have to admit that I am not a “safe and sane fireworks” fan. Sparklers in the hands of children scare me, as the potential for burns and misery outweighs the pleasure of watching the bright sparks fly around. I love watching professionally done fireworks displays, but explosives in the hands of amateurs make me very uncomfortable. As my granddaughters were handed their first sparklers and our collective arsenal of fireworks were arranged on the sidewalk, I took my leave…grateful to be able to come home and spend the rest of the evening with our very freaked out dog.

And freaked out he was. He met me at the front door, followed me across the living room and nestled his head under my foot. We watched Home and Garden Television together this way for a couple of hours; he really needed to go outside for a break, but every time I opened the back door a neighbor exploded something loud and shrieking, and he dove back into the safety of the house.

Chance, the world's best dog (doggie portrait by Olivia when she was 2 years old).

Chance, the world’s best dog (doggie portrait by Olivia when she was 2 years old).

When the rest of the family returned, the girls were so excited to report that they hadn’t been afraid, that they didn’t need earplugs, that it was the best Fourth of July ever. And seeing their happy faces, I was reminded once again of how much I love the freedoms we have in this country.

True, we have allowed our politicians to make mess after mess and ridiculous law after ridiculous law. Instead of enforcing existing laws, they seem hell-bent on legislating us into oblivion — or conformity, which would be even worse. But “we the people” still have the opportunity and the structure in place to make positive changes in our society, if we will rise up to the challenge. America is certainly not perfect, but for me it is so far out in front of any other country I can think of. I am proud to be an American, grateful for the heritage and history we share, and look forward to another wonderful year.

I’m usually a traditionalist when it comes to patriotic music, but I love how Madison Rising celebrates <a href="“>The Star Spangled Banner.