Independence Day

American flag

Twenty years ago, I drove from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania to pick up my girlfriend, a recent college graduate. On the drive back, I proposed to her in Oklahoma (she said yes). We kept driving west. We arrived in Portland on July the 4th.

I sort of registered the significance back then, but we hit the ground running since we didn’t have an apartment lined up (!) and had to find somewhere to live, fast. It wasn’t as hard as it is now, but it still took awhile. We found a tiny studio. But all my stuff was still in Oklahoma.

We slept on an air mattress. We waited months for my stuff to get here (busy moving season). I passed the time by reading War and Peace. Oregon was in a recession, but we eventually found steady jobs. We got married. We bought a house. I started a business. We had a baby (who is no longer a baby!)

I have a lot of “4th of July” stories; some are happy, some are sad. An amusing one is that we would visit Canada to see my Mom’s family or England to visit my Dad’s family, and I always wanted to be on U.S. soil for the 4th.

But the Portland story is my favorite.

I’d lived alone before, gone to college far from home, but when we moved to Portland, my wife and I were truly on our own with no family nearby. That is some folks’ reality from an early age, but it was new for both of us.

Moving to PDX was our Independence Day.

We’ve been living in a single-family home for several years now. I didn’t consciously register the significance at the time, but the color of the front door is red, the trim is white, and the exterior walls are blue.

I also need to say that these are tough times for the U.S. and the world at large. My hope for all who celebrate on this day is to please be safe, and reflect on how we can all be better Americans. Happy Independence Day.

(An earlier version of this story originally appeared as a Twitter thread.)

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