On the morning of July 4, 2019, our neighbor, Barbara Teague, my wife, and I were headed to Lottsburg, Virginia.
Lottsburg is barely a dot on a Virginia map. It is located in Northumberland County up on Virginia’s beautiful Northern Neck.
We had been invited to the getaway home of Jay and David Miller to celebrate the Fourth of July. Barbara’s husband David was helping their youngest daughter and her husband with a cross country drive for a career move to California.
I had no business going to Lottsburg. My internal whine—I had too much to do. Around the house chores, and assorted distractions from my work assignments for my church and local school board were my excuses.
The last time we had traveled to Lottsburg was on a beautiful October Saturday.
It was for the wedding of Jay and David. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier couple. Jay was beautiful. She beamed like that October sun. And David was handsome. His eyes sparkled like the sun reflecting off the waterfront Coan River in their backyard.
In truth, curiosity was quietly nudging me to make this trip. I had seen this section of the Northern Neck in its autumn splendor. I wondered how summer might transform its landscape.
Our drive was uneventful. Barbara is a good driver. Traffic was light.
The small towns and communities along the way were still in place. Some of their appearances were geared toward encouraging consumers to make seasonal summer purchases.
Plots of land, farmed for generations were in their green mode. I’m guessing the farmers are hoping all of nature’s unpredictable conditions will conspire favorably upon their hard work and yield a bountiful harvest.
I sense the pace out here is slower. That would definitely be the case if you were traveling behind large farm equipment on a two-lane byway. But, I can see why Jay and David were drawn to this remote quietness and less hectic commotion.
Well, we arrived. Jay and David greeted us, and quickly introduced us to one of Jay’s childhood friends. She was here with her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend.
Since the wedding, Jay and David had been busy with assorted projects for the house. One project was significant.
A garage/storage building had been converted into a guest cottage. I could see Jay and David’s touches in the finished product. The space is now useful and comfortable. If they chose to showcase these improvements, Southern Living magazine would be the perfect place for this repurposing story.
Quite a spread was offered for lunch. After lunch, we eventually found our ways to the dock area and the converging waters of the Potomac River, the Coan River, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Assorted water toys were available for floating. The water was just the right temperature for a tepid old man. A soft, sandy bottom was a perfect cushion for exploring. There was conversation bouncing off the water, and we kept our eyes on the sky too.
The sun peeked in and out, clouds gathered and departed. Rain looked like a certainty, but it truly never intruded.
As the afternoon moved on, we each found our spots for independence. In this peacefulness, Jay and David were working toward the dinner plans. David had a critical assignment—the making of homemade ice cream.
A screened in porch off the back of the house was a good spot for chatting and prior to dinner, there was lots of chatter.
Everything about dinner worked to satisfy our appetites, and we all know that only a fool would turn down homemade ice cream on a muggy summer evening. The ice cream was perfect. It would quiet any craving sweet tooth.
Real estate agents preach—“location, location, location”—well, this evening we were in a perfect location for fireworks. As darkness continued to encroach, our eyes were drawn to the sky. No matter where we scanned north, east, west we saw fireworks. Even the next door neighbors provided a show too.
Those distant pops and booms of sparkling, glittering colors shimmered in the sky. Propelled to their optimum height, the hues and shades glimmered as they exploded into the thick, smoky air.
Those choreographed images, brought satisfaction to the admirers back on earth. We were dazzled by the hang time of the fireworks before the embers streaked downward slowly burning out.
And the finales were just what they should have been.
Chaos ignited in rapid fire, sustained bursts, spewing a palette of colors into the darkness, and capturing wonder for all observers. And then, no matter where we looked, the shows were over.
Selfishly, I thought to myself, I’m sitting on this back porch, no crowds and traffic to battle to get home. I could get use to this.
All that watching of fireworks can wear a person down, and my old body was asking for some sleep.
On Friday morning, David and I were up early. We were driving back to Richmond. David had an important assignment. He was picking up their grandson to take back to Lottsburg. I was going home to mess with all of those things that were going to be my excuse for not traveling to Lottsburg.
David and I attempted to solve the world’s problems on the ride back. We weren’t successful.
Last night taking in all of those firework displays made me think about freedom. I wonder if I really understand how lucky I have been in my 66 years of living. I wonder if I truly comprehend how much of what I enjoy pivots off the sacrifice and work of others. People who somehow never stopped pursuing freedom for our country.
Our country is in turmoil in so many ways. I wonder how much of our current struggles might be related to our loss of appreciation for freedom. I know at times, I am guilty, I take freedom for granted.
Taking freedom for granted isn’t acceptable. By doing this, I silence my voice. I prevent myself from the potential to make a difference in an American’s life who hasn’t experienced freedom.
I don’t think our forefathers want me to take freedom for granted.
That stance only weakens the future.
Every new sunrise brings hope.
In that hope is opportunity.
The question for me is how will I use that opportunity to advance freedom for those who haven’t had my path of privilege?
Clearly, I have no business pushing that opportunity to the side.