Last night in a Toledo Hospital delivery room, Aubree Fuller entered the beginning stages of labor with her nails painted red, white, and blue.
"We're holding out," the Maumee woman said between contractions. "We're holding out for the Fourth."
She'd proposed to her husband on the Fourth. Her husband's parents were engaged on the Fourth.
She wanted her baby, her first baby, on the Fourth.
At her side, husband Brad resisted the doctor's suggestion to induce labor.
"I think the baby will come when it's ready. That's the freedom of this country," he said. "We won't have [the doctor] interfere with it. We'll induce if it gets dangerous, though, or if my wife wants it."
For Mr. Fuller, whose grandfather fought and died under Gen. George S. Patton during World War II, the reason for the day was simple: "Freedom. Freedom for everything. Everything we go through, our country, everything. It's the day we declared our independence," he said.
Being born on the Fourth of July - a day of pride, pomp, and patriotism, of nationwide introspection and celebration - can be both a boon and burden. For those born on the same day as their nation, experiences and early memories can be weighted with meaning.
They begin with fireworks - fireworks young children believe are all for them.
"When you realize they're not just for you, you're kind of disappointed," joked Sherri Ellis, a Maumee nurse born 50 years ago today in Canton.
Ms. Ellis touts the importance of patriotism. Her birthday has always had a dual meaning: pride in herself and in her country. The latter is something she's strived hard to pass on to her children - though she noted that until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, they never noticed the flag hooked onto the outer door of her garage.
"I told them, 'It's always been out.' And they said, 'Yeah, that's right,' " Ms. Ellis said.
"We have this freedom in this country. I relish that freedom. My kids, they realize what price people pay."
If there's a downside about having a birthday everyone remembers, it comes in the later years, Ms. Ellis said.
"Now being older, you kind of wish people would forget your birthday," she joked. "But nobody does."
Lorraine Nussel, a retired Washington Local teacher living in Sylvania Township, would agree.
Born 75 years ago today in the southern Detroit suburb of Ecorse, Mich., she remembers being fiercely proud of her birthday - a day her brother, born on a day in May that their 13 aunts and uncles often forgot, begged to trade with her.
But people can celebrate patriotism in different ways, Ms. Nussel said.
She doesn't support the ongoing war in Iraq; she cherishes her right to criticize it.
"That's part of our duty in this country," she said.
"I think patriotism is very important, and I don't hesitate to criticize the government or the President."
Along with the fireworks that she, like Ms. Ellis, originally thought were all for her, she remembers her great fear of World War II while growing up. She remembers the fighting, the sacrifice.
"I hated to go to war movies because I was sure it would come here next. I was scared to death," she said.
But some of her most enjoyable memories are of the old Fourth of July parades - the ones she doesn't see these days, the ones with tons of people marching: veterans, police officers, entire school classes, and every official imaginable.
Confetti was a luxury; national pride was in big supply.
"Less floats and flash, but more people, a lot more people," she said.
"You have to understand, in those days, coming out of the Depression, there wasn't a lot of celebrating of events. We didn't have any blown-up Disney figures or anything like that. There'd just be a lot of bodies," she said.
In Toledo, Megan Burroughs will turn 25 today. Really, the Fourth seems like just another family get-together to her. Her family hanging extra flags seems like a natural act.
From her family's perspective, she has every reason to be patriotic, but until this week, the Toledo hairstylist never put together how many people in her family fought in past wars for their country.
Her father, Robert, was in the Marine Corps. Two of her aunts, Lillian and Mary, were nurses for the U.S. military during World War II. Both of her grandfathers, Ed and Richard, fought in that war - one as a bombardier, the other as an infantryman in France.
Both of her grandfathers' brothers fought in France as well.
Her brother, James, and two cousins served - the cousins in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
"I didn't really put it all together until today," Ms. Burroughs said yesterday during an interview. "The Fourth, it seems really like just another day we can all stay together and appreciate the family."
Like Ms. Ellis and Ms. Nussel, as a child she believed Toledo's downtown fireworks were all for her.
Later, while on her uncle's boat, an errant bottle rocket fired from a nearby hill bounced off her head and burned a hole in her aunt's sweater.
It wasn't the best birthday gift she'd ever gotten.
But she didn't let it spoil the spirit of the holiday.
"I'm thankful I'm American because I see what's going on in other countries, how lucky we are," she said.
"But I worry about our children," she added.
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