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Fourth of July: a day to celebrate family and freedom

June 29, 2012
By Karen Wils , Daily Press

ESCANABA - The red, white and blue of Old Glory flapping against the backdrop of my parent's green house...

Geraniums peeking out of every porch pot along the chalky, white rail...

Toddlers all splattered with Popsicle drips or watermelon juice...

Article Photos

Photo courtesy of Karen Wils

His original naturalization paper was an important and proud document for Grandpa Stacewiche. He carried the creased and yellowing document in his wallet for many years.

The velvet black night-sky over Little Bay de Noc all lit up with a kaleidoscope of colorful fireworks...

I wish I could create a 4th of July photo album on the pages of the Daily Press.

I've been blessed with many awesome Independence Days.

From the servicemen and women who sacrificed so much for our country, to my parents and family who taught me to appreciate our freedom.

From the time I was just a kid, my Mom took it upon herself that we should have a gala celebration for Independence Day at our house. Picnic tables, barbecues and potato salad, followed by a six-pack of sparklers, were the norm for the holiday.

I got my first camera in 1973 and since that time I could fill a huge picture album with just funny family 4th of July photos.

There were contests for pie eating, three legged race, Polish suitcase race, nose contest, fancy-feet contest, rolling-pin throwing contests, to name a few.

Water-balloon tossing and watermelon-seed-spitting contest became an annual event.

Mom, Dad and aunts, uncles and cousins have worked so hard over the years to make the day special.

Back in the 1960s, each of the six kids got one box of sparklers. Off to the Ore Crusher Hill the whole family would dash to light the sparklers and watch the city's firework display.

Even though the smelly sparklers and noisy firecrackers were not my favorite things, after the party a sense of calmness and the scent of mock orange blossoms filled the air.

I have 4th of July pictures of sunbonnets, flip-flops, horseshoe playing, parades, new babies in strollers and grammas in wheelchairs. But the most important 4th of July photo I ever saw was my grandfather Stasewiche's naturalization papers.

He emigrated to the United States from Russia. Although he died long before I was born, I was told how my grandmother taught him to read and write English so that he could get his citizenship certificate. (She also helped several other Russians get their citizenship papers).

I'm told that my grandfather was extremely proud to be an American and carried his citizenship certificate folded up in his wallet for many years.

The 4th of July is flags, freedom and fireworks, but more importantly, it's about the people in your photo album.

Take a moment to talk about family history with your children. I'm sure you will find many hardworking, pioneers, immigrants, native peoples and proud people in your photo albums. Happy Independence Day!


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.



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