Originally created 07/04/99

Family drops technology for holiday



"It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

-- John Adams

At the Miller house, we're going to celebrate Independence Day the old-fashioned way -- with watermelon, fireworks and a family cookout.

Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

Well, don't jump on the red-white-and-blue bandwagon so fast.

This year, there's also going to be personal sacrifice.

No entertainment technology. None. Nada. Zilch. Well, at least we're going to try.

Today, my three children -- for one day only -- are to lay down their GameBoys, stay away from their Nintendo 64 controllers and keep their fingers off the TV remote.

Even though we've rented four movies that we haven't seen, my husband and I are not going to lie in bed and veg all day.

For 24 hours, we're going to shed the chains of technology and try to re-create a simpler time. We're going to talk to each other, instead of sending e-mail.

Before all you techno-lovers start zapping me with your electrically charged gadgetry, just hear me out.

Most days I praise technology -- at least when the computers are working properly.

It's mind-boggling still to click on a little computer button and be taken in the wink of an eye to page after page of history on how the Continental Congress came to declare this country independent from the oppression of England and King George.

It's great to be able to slide a video into the VCR and watch a movie like Enemy of the State, showing how satellite technology could be used to monitor our every move, every word, every transaction.

And it's so easy to let my kids chase and capture Pokemons for hours on end and then watch the Japanese cartoon on television.

But when they are grown and have children of their own and look back to those halcyon days of youth, what will their memories of the holiday that so completely represents the wonders of summer be?

Will they remember how their parents took them to the lake for a July Fourth picnic, baited their hooks with wiggly worms and let them light the charcoal for the hot dogs? How their parents hid them in cabinets above the refrigerator or inside the dryer when rain forced the hide-and-seek game with neighborhood kids indoors? And how on hot summer nights, their parents would sit on the porch and watch as they chased lightning bugs?

Arguing the pros and cons of rechargeable batteries or making pacts to let their children play with electronic toys anytime they want doesn't seem to have the same kind of resonance as watching my father proudly salute the flag he fought for in two wars.

So, this weekend, we're going to eschew virtual reality for some real-world memory-making.

We're going to come downtown, eat icy watermelon and watch the fireworks, stroll along Riverwalk Augusta, splash in the fountain and maybe even try to work in a little history lesson about why we as a nation celebrate the Fourth of July.

I hope the sights, sounds and smells of the last Fourth of July of this millennium will be enough to etch those memories permanently in their impressionable heads.

But just in case, we'll bring along the digital camera.

This is the second essay on American holidays, featuring a staff writer's thoughts on these annual celebrations. If you would like to share your remembrances of a holiday, please send them to "The Augusta Chronicle," 725 Broad St., Augusta, GA 30903.