born on the fourth of july

Marian Parsonsa slice of life50 Comments

For most Americans, the fourth of July is about celebrating our independence.  As I was growing up, that was the same for us, but there was an added celebration in our family.  It was my Opa’s birthday.  And he didn’t shrug off his birthday as most people do when they age.  He declared his special day to everyone within earshot and made sure they all knew that the fireworks were for him.  I remember watching the explosions of light and color while sitting on his knee when I was a little girl and he would say things like, “Isn’t it great that the whole country celebrates my birthday?”  The fourth of July party at their local country club was also know as Marshall Johnson’s birthday party.  He was a charismatic, well-liked man, so not only could he get away with it, but everyone played along.

It’s a game that’s been played almost from the time he was born.

He was supposed to be born in August, but his mother went on a bumpy car ride that sent her into early labor or so the story goes.  He arrived several weeks early.  So early, in fact, that they didn’t think he would survive.  Neither the odds nor statistics were in his favor.  They were so sure he wouldn’t make it that they didn’t even give him a name.  His mom didn’t give up, though.  She nestled his tiny body close to hers in the upstairs bedroom of their home in the heat of July and that was his incubator.

His birth certificate read “Noname Johnson” until he tried to get a passport as an adult and realized he needed to change it!

Through his childhood, his mother told him the fireworks, flags, and parades were for him on his special day.

My Opa was a special man.  He was the youngest of four boys and grew up during the depression.  He used to ride a pony through the tunnels dug during the Civil War siege of Petersburg, VA before they collapsed.  He served in WWII in the European & Pacific theaters.  He was a UVA grad and a home builder.  He could fix anything from go-carts to leaky faucets.  He used to have a silver Porsche with a red interior and a licorice dispenser mounted to the roof by the driver’s side.

He would watch his indoor/outdoor thermometer and if it was 1° cooler outside than inside, we would have to turn off the AC and open the windows (and then die in the Virginia humidity.)  He loved fishing and hunting and played tennis until he was in his 80’s.  He loved strawberry pop tarts.  And he was our own Dr. Doolittle with animals.  He had pet squirrels, snakes, raccoons, dogs, cats, and birds.  His favorite was a yellow lab named Skeeter.

We used to sit on the porch together and watch birds and golfers and sing Somewhere over the Rainbow.  We would see who could hold the final note the longest.

He died a few years ago and I still feel an ache that he doesn’t get the see my boys grow up.  My oldest son, Marshall, is named after him and has definitely acquired some of his charisma.

As a home-lover and businessman, I know he would be so proud of how my business has grown over the years and how handy I’ve become with tools, although I’m sure he would give me an earful for painting some of the pieces I’ve painted.

So, every fourth of July, I celebrate our country, our independence, and the freedoms we enjoy.  I watch the fireworks and eat corn-on-the-cob.  But I also think about my Opa.  I’m thankful that I got to know him as well as I did and that I have so many great memories with him.

Happy Fourth of July!

born on the fourth of july

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50 Comments on “born on the fourth of july”

  1. What a loving tribute to your Opa! How great to be born on July 4th and get to celebrate every year with fireworks, celebrations and parties. It would be neat if your grandfather was related to my great-grandmother who was a Johnson and born in Meredithville, VA which is south of Petersburg.

  2. It’s wonderful that you have so many special memories of your grandfather. Thanks for sharing them with us!

  3. Isn’t it amazing that we are still celebrating his birthday! Have a great day full of love and memories!

  4. Your Opa sounds like a wonderful man! Thank you for sharing such wonderful stories on this special day!

  5. Thank you for sharing the story of your Opa. My mom’s birthday was also on the 4th of July and, growing up, I always believed my dad when he told me the fireworks were for her! She left us 13 years ago on the 5th of July and I still miss her so very much. My son was married last year and my daughter’s wedding is this September and she was the most wonderful Yiayia (Greek for grandmother) and adored those two. I am so sad that she has missed their While she didn’t get to see them arrive into adulthood, they remember her with great love and affection. These are the souls that touch our lives. God bless you, Marian!

  6. What a beautiful family story. Grandparents are such a special treasure and i miss mine so much…and now I am one. My grandkids call me “Buck” a tradition that began with my very small granddaughter. I think it happened when i was reading to her and made a chicken sound. 😂
    Happy 4th of July, and Happy birthday to your Opa Marshall!

  7. He just sounds like such a wonderful man! You were lucky to have him so close and know all this about him.

  8. Oh man, bawling like a baby.

    Well the family apple didn’t fall far from the tree- talented, likeable, charismatic, great with tools, fun?

    YOU live on to keep him alive.

    Great post. Gotta go get some more tissues now.

  9. Sweet post. For your family this day – you get to celebrate 2 times – once for the love of America and once for the love of your Grandfather. It sounds like he was a wonderful man. Glad you were able to grow up with him. Thank you for shairing your story!

  10. Love that! I never knew my grandfathers but knew they loved their families. Thanks for those special memories you shared. Families are gifts from God!

  11. Love this story. My brother was also born on the 4th of July and he always claimed the celebrations as his own…that is until his first child was born…also on the 4th of July. She ruled after that! LOL! This year he turns 60 years young, so we are celebrating in earnest this year!

  12. Lovely story full of great memories .
    My mom was born on News Year’s Eve and her parents told her all the fuss, fun and fireworks was for her birth!!! She always held on to that. And we as kids believed her!!! She has been gone many years now, sadly died at 38 yrs. old.
    BUT….there is never a New Year’s Eve that goes by that I don’t think we are celebrating her still.
    Happy 4th and happy memories to your family.

  13. What a lovely memory. I understand now why you are such a charismatic and talented person! Happy 4th!

  14. I loved this! Brought back memories! My dad was born on Flag Day and always told me they put out flags for his birthday!😂 Of coarse I believed him until I learned the truth in school!😂

  15. Beautiful memories and post, Marian, and you can really see his personality shine through in that photograph!

  16. Stories like this touch is deeply~ I think the fireworks, in part, were just for your Opa!

    Happy Birthday to your Opa, up beyond the stars ⭐️

  17. My mom was born on Flag Day and she said the same thing and loved it. Lost her in March this year, she was 92.

  18. What lovely memories. Thank you for sharing your Opa with us today. Happy Independace Day to you and your family as well.

  19. The one degree reminds me of my husband lol 😂 Loves the windows open ! But he’s a good grandpa always building wooden projects with his grandsons , takes them fishing and plays card games with them . Trying to leave memories he tells me . Wants them to remember him and how much he loves them . Prays with them and shares his love for the Lord. He’s a good guy that husband of mine ❤️ Thanks for sharing your memories of your opa 😊

  20. Heartfelt memory, beautifully told, and I am so glad you remember it so well. Both my parents died on this holiday, although 21 years apart. Therefore, I can never forget the other special significance of this day, either. I am no longer sad on this day, though, because my father was such a patriot, and he shared this death day with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. He would have been the first to say that proudly. It took a while to get to this point, but time gives us perspective.

  21. Oh Marian, I can definitely relate to this post. My Granddaddy was born on July 4th, 1907, so we loved celebrating his birthday. He and my Big Mama had 7 children and with all the cousins in attendance, we were quite a crowd. There was BBQ, Brunswick Stew, fresh vegetables, potato salad, cold watermelon and homemade ice cream in vanilla and lemon (Big Mama’s favorite flavor). One year, the children got together and gave him a new wedding band. Well, my Granddaddy was a carpenter and many years before, he’d lost the first knuckle on his ring finger to a saw. When he saw the ring, he told us all that he didn’t have much left to wear it on! He and my Big Mama married when she was 14 and he was 19. I miss him so much. Happy Birthday to your Opa, Marian and to my Granddaddy too.

  22. I enjoy all of your blog posts, but this one has to be at the top of the list. It is a great tribute to your Opa and a reminder to all of us to honor those we love while they are with us and to remember with gratitude and love after they are not. What a blessing he was in your life and I’m sure he felt the same about you. Thank you for sharing those great memories with us.

  23. Beautiful memories of a wonderful Opa! What a gift to know his story from birth. Such impressive details of his life (sounds much like someone else I am now getting to know). You are blessed

  24. Your licorice story reminded me of my dad who was born in 1928. He ran my grandfather’s tobacco farm after he passed away. Some days when it was very hot, he would get in his airplane (a piper cub) and fly into the next town (less than 10 miles) and get a milkshake from Dairy Queen. He pinched pennies though. When he build our house in 1973, he didn’t install central air so we slept with fans in our windows all summer! What cherished memories you have. Life really is all about love, family and the simple things.

  25. Lovely story and hold the memories dear. I have a friend whos child was born on the 4th in Boston. He always thought the over the top fireworks in Boston were
    for him!

    I have this wonderful picture of my mother’s family around 1921 all sitting in an open car with flags decorating the corners. It depicted all six children including the baby who would be 100 in August.

    I have it framed in an appropriate 4th of July frame but am thinking of sending it off and have it enlarged and made into one of those canvas prints in a much larger size. My daughter has done it for her wedding pictures etc.

    I too was a small preemie but survived and have been healthy as a horse my entire life once I got over myself. Thank you God.

  26. I loved reading your memories of your Opa. He sounds so much like my Grandpa. My Grandpa passed away when I was 9 years old but I am lucky to have so many memories of spending time with him. Thanks for sparking those happy memories again. ❤️

  27. What a wonderful tribute to an awesome man. Yes, keep the memories alive for your boys. My Mom will be 90 on the 24th. Can’t even imagine life without her…

  28. Your Opa was a true member of what author Tom Brokaw coined, “The Greatest Generation.” Fortunately for us, they passed their time-honored values and ethics on to their children and grandchildren. Regardless of the self-centeredness and petty name-calling we may hear and read through the media, I believe the lessons learned from their grandparents and great-grandparents will enable our children and grandchildren to emerge as adults; stronger and more resilient than ever. Thank you, Marian, for the touching tribute to your Opa, and for being a torch carrier for future generations!

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