For as long as I can remember, the 4th of July means just one thing: Family. I know it’s about a whole lot more than that, but for us, it’s always been about gathering with family (and friends), enjoying good food, lots of fun and of course fireworks! I’ll be honest, I get more excited about the 4th of July than I do about Christmas morning! I always have. It’s that big of a deal to us.

As a child, the weekend before the 4th was always spent driving around fireworks shopping. My dad was obsessed! He carefully examined each one, determining what they did and how they would work into his show. He’d pick the best ones, get a new T-shirt and we’d head home my brothers and I dancing with excitement over what these new fireworks would do! Come the 4th, we’d hang out outside, tons of food, extended family visiting, neighbors and friends stopping by. All were welcomed! As dusk arrived – the fun really began! We’d gather on blankets and chairs in the front yard and watch as my dad put on an incredible display of fireworks! The night would always end with root beer floats and watching the city’s show from our front yard! Perfection.

In the last 12 or so years, things have changed. My dad is no longer with us, my brothers have grown up and have their own families and aren’t usually able to be with us and my mom’s new significant other has his own family traditions they participate in. But, it’s important to me to keep the traditions alive with my kids – so each year we drive to Wisconsin, to my my Great Grandma’s house and celebrate in a similar way. Tons of fireworks, tons of food, family surrounding us and always (always) tons of fun!

This year, my mom was able to join us for the first time in about 8 years! The kids are getting bigger and their excitement was palpable. We gathered, we ate, we played and we did fireworks. We smiled. We laughed. I felt the love. As we lounged, exhausted, at the end of the night, Adam (my oldest) said “Best Fourth of July Ever;” and with that, I knew that my traditions held the same meaning for him as they always have for me.