Vive Les Etats-Unis!

By Barbara Tulli | June 25th, 2024

A memorable Fourth of July

patriotic cupcakes, to represent a memorable Fourth of July. Image by Leerobin

Do you have a memorable Fourth of July, one that gleams especially bright in your mind? Boomer reader Barbara Tulli does, and she shares the memory and its unlikely location.

At 74, I have celebrated our country’s independence each July for a good long time now. Often, growing up, the festivities were at our local park, watching the fireworks drop their colors into the lake there. Some years we were in Colorado, cooking out and sharing sparklers with second cousins who we saw only every four years. And since I grew up outside of Washington, D.C., we occasionally took a blanket along the shores of the Potomac in Alexandria or journeyed to the city on the Fourth. There, we’d to sit with many hundreds of others as we watched the “rocket’s red glare” over the Washington Monument to the strains of the National Symphony Orchestra playing “The 1812 Overture.” A surefire guarantee of goosebumps on a warm summer’s night!

And yet, for all those wonderful memories, the nicest Fourth I’ve had in years happened during the summer of 2016, very far from home. I was on a two-week tour across France with 24 other Americans that began in Paris the first of July. We’d headed out of that glorious city and into the countryside a few days later.

While I’d remembered it was the Fourth that morning when I awoke, I soon forgot during a day crowded with activity. We toured the site where a 13th-century castle was being recreated, enjoyed a picnic lunch, and finally landed in Bourges late that afternoon. The incredibly picturesque town, situated in the Burgundy region, was replete with houses that dated to the 15th century, a beautiful cathedral, narrow streets, and even a palace. We explored the cathedral, then journeyed en masse to our restaurant, where we dined on boeuf bourguignon, fresh bread, goat cheese salad, and of course wine from the nearby vineyards.

As the meal drew to a close, servers suddenly appeared from the kitchen, carrying creamy desserts. Each dish was topped with a lit sparkler. “Whose birthday is it?” I asked someone at my table. “America’s,” she smiled. Of course …

Almost immediately, we heard the first notes of the “Star Spangled Banner” coming from a CD player somewhere in the room. We stood as one and began to sing. My eyes were welling with tears, and it was everything I could do to keep them from spilling over. The locals watched from their tables, smiling broadly, and applauded with us as the anthem came to an end. We looked at one another with American-sized grins, and shook our heads at this remarkably kind gesture. We were in a foreign land several thousand miles from home, and yet were made to feel very welcome on a night that was quintessentially American.

The French sometimes get a bad rap from Americans who crowd their picturesque streets on vacation each year. And yet, the people of Bourges went out of their way to remember a holiday that belonged to a group of strangers feeling a bit homesick that particular evening. I am so very grateful; I will long remember that especially sweet Fourth.

Barbara Tulli is a retired elementary school librarian who lives in the “Center of the Universe,” Ashland. She keeps busy with six grandchildren under the age of 11, is an avid reader and writer, and dabbles in art in her spare time.

Read more childhood memories and other contributions from Boomer readers in our From the Reader department.

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