When my grandpa was a little boy, his family would spend Independence Day in a mountain meadow near their ranch. No one can recall the exact year that the tradition began, but since the family settled on the ranch in 1914, we know that six generations have been retreating to that cool, quiet mountainside on July 4.
While Grandpa's siblings rarely make it back for the celebration, Grandpa and his descendants gather faithfully to feast on fried chicken, watermelon, and homemade ice cream. The faces of the crowd have changed a bit since 1914, but the menu and a few of the names have not. This year, for example, three people in attendance answer to the name James Robertson.
This year our kids climbed the same rocks that my cousins and I climbed at their age.
They roasted marshmallows over the same fire pit we've been using since long before they were born. (Their moms pretended not to notice the filthy hands with which they ate them.)
On the eve of his 87th birthday, my grandpa gathered his family around him to celebrate freedom, tradition, family, and heritage. All of his children and his grandchildren were there.
But only when the "greats" surrounded him for a photo did his smile show how much the moment meant to him. With number 15 snuggled in his lap, his day was complete.