Happy Independence Day! While the 4th of July is the celebration of America’s independence, for me, it’s always been a celebration for my family as it was also my grandmother Marge’s birthday.

Each year, my dad’s side of the family would gather to celebrate not only my grandmother’s birthday but a beloved cousin’s whose birthday is the day before. It was always a holiday I looked forward to, and still do, even though my grandmother passed away four years ago.

Each year though I experience a sense of longing, not only for my grandmother whom I miss dearly, but for the way our family would gather and be with one another. Living over 600 miles away from home has made me more acutely aware of this each passing year. And while our family doesn’t gather on the 4th of July like it once had, there is hope for the future that we’ll once again return to celebrating as a clan.

My family has always held such a strong hold on me that I’m often surprised at myself for moving so far away and not keeping in better contact with everyone. But each year, as I settle down for a barbeque with friends who are like family, I relish the memories of what came before, those I’m making now, and the memories yet to be made.