Growing up in England, the Fourth of July was not a national holiday and there were no fireworks. Still, as a child, it was a special day for me as it was my father’s birthday. I remember summer breaks from school, long walks with my father across the Devonshire moors, and coming back to the house for a special birthday tea with scones and clotted cream made by my Grandmother.
These walks and our conversations were a special time together that I really loved. What I remember most vividly is my father’s advice to me to “think for yourself.” He would say, “Merryn, don’t take the first answer you’re given — get to the heart of the matter.” He would tell me that the history books were sometimes wrong, that I shouldn’t blindly believe teachers, church leaders, or anybody else, and that I should learn to put the answers together on my own.
This advice, and my father’s faith in me, had a life long impact: I grew up to be an independent woman unafraid of questioning authority, the media, the medical community, or anybody else’s version of the “truth.” I have left England far behind me and celebrated the holiday with America for 25 years. Now, each Fourth of July has plenty of fireworks, BBQs, and happy family get-togethers. But one of my most cherished memories is remembering my father and his birthday.