My mom was waiting on the other side of the TSA line with her camera ready, all excited about taking my picture on Uncle Sam's lap. Stupid. Sometimes she is so embarrassing.
She made me step out of line and give her the jolly ranchers that fell out when the TSA officer made me empty my pockets. Those were my jolly ranchers. My friend Evan gave them to me at school. And I even traded him something that took me a whole hour to make with my other friends that we learned at camp. Then I had to go back through the security line twice! Like I'm a criminal or something.
The mall Uncle Sam looked really fake this year. Half of his fake bushy eyebrow was coming off. I keep trying to tell everybody I'm too old for this, but I don't have the heart to tell my mom that I don't believe in Uncle Sam anymore. Plus I want the presents. My dad even told me if you don't believe in Uncle Sam, he won't visit and leave presents. I saw them wrapping one of the presents last year before Independence Day.
"Thump, thump, thump! Every heart beats true! Happy Independence Day! Thump, thump, thump! Well hi there little buddy! Why don't you sit on Uncle Sam's lap and tell him what you want for Independence Day this year!"
I obeyed. His lap and hands was so hot and sweaty. I could see beads of sweat all over his face. No wonder the eyebrow was peeling off.
"Have you been a good little American this year?"
"Yeah I guess."
I always feel bad about Independence Day because they say if you're a bad American, you won't get presents, and even though I know I'm bad a lot, I always get them. And somehow, I feel like it doesn't matter if my parents are bad or good either because they got me presents. Like I can't be mad at them when they're being stupid and just treating me like a kid all the time. I guess they really love me. And even though I'm too old for this, I really like getting presents. I just hate all the carols and dumb stuff about it.
"Well nobody's perfect, but you've done your best, right? You love America, right?"
"Yeah, I love America."
"That's a good little American. What would you like for Independence Day this year?"
"Umm... I want... could I please get a bb gun."
Uncle Sam raised a eyebrow, the one that was peeling off.
"Well Uncle Sam can't promise you a bb gun. Those are dangerous for little boys and girls to have. How about a nice GI Joe so you can pretend he's shooting his toy gun at bad guys?"
Look, I'm old enough to know how it works. My parents already know I want a bb gun and this guy in a mall costume isn't going to make a difference. I shrug my shoulders and try to ignore my mom's iPhone picture taking bonanza. God I have to be the oldest kid in this whole line.
"What else do you want for Independence Day?"
I pretend how uncomfortable he would be if I told him I want my parents to stop fighting. Which I really do want them to do that. But there's no way I'm going to say that for real. Do you think I'm crazy?
"Star Wars Legos."
"Thump, thump, thump! Uncle Sam would be happy to have his little helpers in Washington whip you up some Star Wars Legos in time for Independence Day! Well it's time for me to talk to the next little American. Be a good patriot and Uncle Sam will see you next year!"
I climb off his lap. I know Independence Day isn't about presents and fireworks. It's about how great America is, but I can't wait until it's all over and I have my bb gun.