Teri Vance: Celebrating freedom and friendship | NevadaAppeal.com

Teri Vance: Celebrating freedom and friendship

Teri Vance

Jason Gardner competes in the newspaper toss during the End of Bike Week Party on Friday evening in McFadden Plaza.

I spent the Independence Day in Virginia City with my husband, stepkids and mom.

We ate dinner at the Canvas Cafe — and the food was beyond delicious — then watched the fireworks from the patio there.

I've always valued the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution of our nation, but there are moments that drive that home more for me.

This holiday was one of them.

Just sitting in the presence of those I love made me realize again how fortunate we are to live in a country where we're free from oppression. We get to spend time in merriment without fear for our lives or safety, and though we often take that for granted, it's truly a privilege.

For much of the world, that's not a possibility.

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It also made me think of the weekend prior I had spent in Elko catching up with old friends.

My friend, Hank, was in town to put some of his late father's affairs in order. Hank grew up in Montello, a railroad community east of Wells, population about 4,000.

We met up with fellow Wells High graduates and friends Olivia and Gwen. We met at the high school itself, where Olivia's kids were rehearsing for a play.

Gwen was back in town after spending the week before working on details for the loft she and her husband are building in Salt Lake.

As we went through our memories from a lifetime ago, it was easy to see how much had changed.

These four kids who seemingly led similar lives through high school, made choices that sent them in all different directions.

Hank is living in New York, teaching pilates and physical therapy.

Olivia moved to Elko after college where she taught English as a Second Language. There, she met one of her student's uncles and they got married.

At first, she didn't speak Spanish well, and his English was also limited.

Now, they're both bilingual, living in a home near her family ranch in Starr Valley. She homeschools their five children.

Gwen started a successful kitchen business that gained national attention. She's remarried to a business mogul now and they split their time between Nevada and Germany, when not managing the business from their homes in New York, Connecticut and Salt Lake City.

Then there's me. Writing.

I was struck by the different directions we all took, starting from the same place — or at least near the same place.

The American Dream isn't a guarantee, but I'm grateful we're free to choose our own life path and grateful for the opportunity that's available to us.

I want to do better at acknowledging the gifts I've inherited as a citizen of a democratic country, and also be more diligent in my responsibility to uphold its tenets.

That's my form of patriotism.

Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at terivance@rocketmail.com.