There is something about seeing an American flag planted firmly on English soil even for a day that makes my expat heart beat a bit faster. Driving down the lane six days ago to James and Gillian’s home for their annual July 4th celebration, I felt a kind of excitement similar to that from childhood, the one reserved for Christmas morning and the hope that Santa might have answered the dreams of a wistful child.
I wondered to myself and even aloud several times to our American guests if the flag would be there like last year. It seemed impossible to think that it wouldn’t since I had seen it properly folded as an American flag should be, and tucked in a box the week before when talking with Gillian about the party plans for the day.
Still, the part of me that doesn’t like to be disappointed was holding back a bit of enthusiasm and expectation, just in case. In case of what I’m not sure, but nothing pleased me more than seeing the flag airborne as we came down the lane.
I don’t think I ever felt as giddy in all the years I’ve seen it flying including the times when I stood saluting the flag as a soldier in uniform while serving in the American Army. Perhaps it has something to do with making a home in a new country that makes me realize and value a few things differently … things I may have taken for granted before moving to the UK.
I don’t want to get too deep and philosophical in this post. I’d like to show you instead how we all came together with our mixed lot of British spouses along with some unmarried but permanently settled Americans and those working here who will likely go home to America to live one day.
I want to show you the fun. I think it was a good experience for our visiting American guests, Jamie and Barbara and one they may talk about when sharing their UK trip with friends back home. I can’t help but wonder what they’ll remember though and what mattered most to them that day.
It would not be a proper American celebration without a little ” baseball ” although for me to call it baseball would be a stretch. In Gillian’s version, (I can’t remember if she called it baseball so I’m taking a bit of creative liberty here) you had a choice of what type of ball you wanted hit or kick and also a choice of bat, racket, or use of a cricket bat for smacking your ball of choice.
The kids all seemed to love it and the adults were willing to continue to play even as the rain came down.
You can see the rain in this shot especially if you click on the photograph. It’s a bit blurry as I was trying to protect my camera from what John will charmingly often refer to as a ” spot of rain.”
Our scorekeeper Mitt made notes throughout, but I don’t know if there was a winner as I fled for dryer quarters while the rest of the braver folk stayed at it.
Between the ball game and the meal that followed, I went on a walk and photographed a few colorful images not associated with the July 4th holiday.
You can just make out John in the background trying to get a shot of me while I was trying to coax this peacock into posing for a portrait and since my friend Cindy in the US mentioned she’d like to see a photograph of me from the 4th, I’ve added the photograph that John was taking in the shot above.
After a the game was over and while the burgers were cooking, the adults divided into four teams for the ever popular quiz that is such a part of British life. At Gillian’s request, I had prepared a 20 question quiz of all American questions that carried us into the mealtime which is one of my favorite parts of the holiday.
Everyone brought some of their favorites and I brought Pioneer Woman’s sheet cake in mini-cupcake form as well a potato salad made from my family’s recipe. I don’t have food pictures as I actually put the camera down for a few minutes to eat, but the sing-a-long afterwards made for a few interesting shots.
We’re finishing up the dessert portion of the meal and getting ready to rock … er sing I mean.
Gillian and Tina chatting about the music … I think.
Gillian getting the children involved. They had instruments too.
I’m not sure what Tina said here, but it Barbara seems to have found it funny.
I like this photograph of a young father and an older more experienced one talking to the baby girl.
The always tender father-daughter moment although one might argue that she was searching inside his shirt collar.
Gillian with her children as they led us in song complete with hand gestures.
Now with the baby girl from the earlier father-daughter shot going to mom for the sing-a-long, Gillian’s MIL looks on at the song lyrics that Gillian prepared for the party.
My friend Jamie showing a little fan appreciation with his applause after the song ends.
Gillian always does such a great job with everything making a party for 30 or more seem like no trouble at all. I love the way she completes the evening with music and once again, I’m grateful to be included in her circle of friends. Her husband James certainly does his share too and while you’re not likely to see him with a guitar in hand he can make you feel welcome in any number of ways in addition to grilling the hot dogs and hamburgers to perfection.