Ford column: Born on the 4th of July
Sharing your birthday with the nation can be slightly confusing.
As a little girl, I thought all the fireworks were for me.
“Thank you, thank you!” I ran around telling people.
Oh, I was clueless. Clueless but cute. Or so I hear.
I think I was enjoying my annual festivities at Lake Kampeska as a brand-new 6-year-old when someone finally broke the news that people all over the country, not just in Watertown, S.D., were celebrating a birthday, and it sure as heck wasn’t mine.
Later that winter, I learned from a neighbor who had two older brothers that You-Know-Who wasn’t real.
Six was a tough year.
I was born at 4 o’clock in the afternoon in a hospital across the street from a public park, where a band was playing a Fourth of July concert. According to my father, the hospital had no air conditioning and music from the concert came through an open window at the end of the hall.
I arrived in this world accompanied by John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” ó still one of my favorite marches.
Plenty of celebrities and historical figures share my birthday, like twin advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, author Nathaniel Hawthorne, playwright Neil Simon and President Calvin Coolidge.
While only one president has been born on the Fourth of July, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on that day. These men who had drafted the Declaration of Independence became bitter political enemies during their presidencies, but they reconciled in their old age.
What a dramatic coincidence that these founding fathers died on the same day, the country’s 50th birthday.
Adams’ dying words were, “Thomas Jefferson.” But he invoked his friend’s name too late. Jefferson had died a few hours earlier, uttering his final words, “I resign my spirit to God, my daughter to my country.”
Five years later, in 1831, former President James Monroe also died on the Fourth of July.
I love sharing a birthday with the nation. My dad wanted to give me a patriotic name, “Betsy Ross,” but Mom talked him out of it. He lobbied for the name again in 1976 when my sister was born in the bicentennial, but they walked out of the hospital holding “Laura Dawn.”
Since I was about 16, I’ve spent many of my birthdays playing the clarinet in the Watertown Municipal Band. But this year we will celebrate in North Carolina, hiking in the mountains and then enjoying one of the many fireworks displays near Salisbury.
I will resist the urge to thank everyone.
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.